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Brian Rooney

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Facebook: A Desperate Need to Be 'Liked'

Posted: 08/21/2012 12:35 pm

It's easy to imagine that these days Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is sitting at his laptop repeatedly hitting "refresh," like his character in The Social Network trying to connect with an old girlfriend.

The real Zuckerberg must be hoping that the next time he hits the button his company's stock will go up. But neither that lost girlfriend nor the stock market wants to be his friend.

As Facebook users migrate from laptops to smart phones, Facebook is having a hard time putting advertisements in front of mobile eyeballs. The killer app that started as a way for college kids to meet and mix has been reduced to the need to "monetize" smartphone users. The language of investorspeak tells you the spark of love and possibly even Facebook itself is dead.

Facebook's stock has fallen to less than half its opening-day price. It's like the beautiful girl in the senior class who thought a dozen guys would invite her to the prom and none of them did.

Facebook is a brilliant invention that multiplied the possibilities of social connection. It allows people to make myriad new friendships while re-kindling the old ones, sharing pictures, thoughts, interesting articles and funny video.

But Facebook is now an enormous business, only a memory of the electronic frat house pig book once used to hook up for the weekend. Facebook's need to make money quickly turned it into what it rebelled against: the adult world. The coolest thing on the Internet, the way to meet chicks, became the company that grabs its users by the throat and shakes the change out of their pockets.

Facebook's default mode is full disclosure of your personal life to the world. Everyone knows everything about you unless you pull the privacy curtain. It is not for friendship, it's for money.

Your personal pages are loaded with advertisements that reveal that Facebook knows where you live, where you go, how old you are and what you spend money on. Concerts and cellphones for young people, Alzheimer's alerts and disability benefits for the old. These targeted advertisements tell you that they already know a lot about you and they are looking to learn more. A travel company posts an advertisement for a free trip. "Enter to win," and they've got fresh marketing information, advertisements for island getaways and summer rentals to follow

They invented trap-apps, programs that suck in your life information and sell it to advertisers. When a friend posts an interesting newspaper article you have to read it with an application that comes with the warning, "This app may post on your behalf, including videos you watched, articles you read and more."

Your friends become pawns of advertisers. A friend clicks that they "like" Amazon.com and the message appears on your page. Amazon, hmmm, maybe I'll buy a book or a camera.

Your potential connections are no longer just with that cute girl who lives in the dorm across the quad. Verizon Wireless, Ford Motors and Crest Whitestrips all have slickly produced pages that you can readily "friend" and "like."

Politicians use Facebook to reach voters. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan share a page, two guys in blue shirts and khaki pants like the geeks who spent their college Saturday nights at the library.

Mark Zuckerberg, the college-dropout CEO in a hoodie, is as calculating as any Wall Street banker in an Armani suit. He is colonizing the world of human relationships into an international marketing plantation. Now Facebook is forcing its users into a new page system called "Timeline" which allows people to see where you are and what you've been doing, not just today, but years back. That it is so important to Facebook for you to convert to Timeline tells you it is for their benefit, not yours.

Hip new things, like restaurants and nightclubs, come and go. The place you couldn't get into six months ago is suddenly empty and the people in the know have moved on. The people Facebook most wants to reach are those who are already off to Pinterest and Instagram, and whatever comes after that. The Internet fosters a short attention span and addiction to the new. Facebook is left struggling to "monetize" mobile phone users.

The fatal flaw in Facebook is that it wants to cash in on something that never cost money before in human history, friendship. Mark Zuckerberg can hit "refresh" from here to the end of virtual time, but Facebook will never be your friend.

 
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