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The Facebook Experiment Is Failing -- Here Are Its Flaws

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FACEBOOK
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I am signed into Facebook right now. At a quick glance, the entire list of posts on the first screen is irrelevant to me. If I scrolled down, I can find four stories I actually care about, from a list of about 30. The most important page on Facebook has more than three-fourths of absolutely useless content.

Surprising. Facebook is a company with a very large number of talented people. They know a lot about me. Yet, their product looks like one of those spam filled mailboxes from the nineties.

The problem is sharing. It is the most fundamental feature of Facebook, and it's completely broken.

1) Indiscriminate Sharing

While the social network is in a way similar to real world associations, the way sharing works on Facebook is completely disconnected from reality. In the real world, you don't have information that you need to share with every single person you know.

But that's how it works on Facebook, unless you jump through hoops to make lists and share selectively.

2) Facebook gets worse the more you use it

As you use Facebook more, you start accumulating friends. You become part of groups. You end up telling Facebook more about what you like and your preferences. But according to their design, every connection or 'like' is also a chance for somebody's updates to get into the list of stories shown to you.

After a period of active use, you have way too many friends, groups and pages that can get stories into your feed.

3) Loudmouths now have gigantic megaphones

Since everybody is on Facebook, one can expect that it will in some way mirror the behavior of society in general. In the real world however, people's opinions only have a limited reach.

Facebook is a god send for people who love to talk, but have nothing to say. Here is a network that doesn't care about originality or the quality of content. In the time it takes to create something original, they could share dozens of things.

Just like its features, Facebook algorithms are equally stupid. Share more, get noticed more. Originality be damned.

4) Social Media Scamsters

Social Media Marketing is big business. Just like SEO and SEM, Social Media Marketing works by actively gaming the system. While Google actively tries to thwart SEO scamsters, Facebook encourages behavior that reduces the overall quality of content on the network.

The way Facebook advertising works, it bumps the spamming potential of a 'Like' up a notch. A 'Like' on a product or service will make a paid story visible not just to the person who liked it, but also to their friends.

Inevitably, there is an entire industry working non-stop creating low quality, emotionally appealing content that gets 'likes' from gullible users.

5) It can't be fixed. It's over.

The thing is, these aren't accidental flaws in Facebook. These are features.

An ideal Facebook would have been a directory of people and their connections. People can message each other, post text updates and pictures.

In the end, there is a lot to learn from this massive social experiment. Your friend circle and impulsive actions such as 'likes' cannot predict what you want to read. Indiscriminate sharing is a bad idea. A large social network isn't the best way to find information.

We need to go back to smaller communities. Where people aren't lost in the mediocre averages of large networks. That's where ideas flourish.

That journey has begun.

Jeswin Kumar recently quit his consulting job to build an open-source project called Fora, which lets people create interest-based communities. He also runs a collaborative poetry website called poe3.com. Jeswin writes at Medium, where this post first appeared.