Why the internet sucks (part I).

Posted on June 24, 2010

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Social Networking.

That’s why.  Of course it’s not because the idea itself is flawed.  The internet has enabled the creation of massively influential networks.  But there are problems with these networks.  The least of these issues is our ability to make effective use of them.  Social networks, available through the internet, are a tool that we can ignore as we choose.  Or we can try and fail to use them correctly.  Either way, that’s an individual issue.

The problem that irritates me the most — and seems to be a more important concern — does not involve the choices of the individual.  It involves the choices of the Collective Other.  (I know, the term needs defining.  Let me start by way of example and I’ll explain what I mean.)

Let’s look at Facebook.  I have a problem with the way it’s set up.  I should think that the designers would want it to be as intuitive and simplistic as possible, so that a variety of individuals can make effective use of it.  In other words, people who are new to the webpage, or those casual users who don’t invest time to be become experts with it, should be able to accomplish some basic tasks.  The current design works well for myself, and I would imagine it works well for new and casual users: the first thing you see when you log on is a news feed.  Facebook provides a list of status updates and conversations that seem more important than the rest (based on their popularity, I would presume).  If you want to know what’s happening right now, you can click on the “Most Recent” link.  If you want to block a particularly news or status update, there’s an option for that: just scroll over the update and find the “Hide” link.

The links to the left of the page are also simplistic.  They allow immediate access to thinks like your message inbox, events (those you’ve been invited to or that you’ve created) and photos.  And when things might appear confusing, you can still find your personal posts and input.

But the “Friends” link?  No, see, you can’t use that link to just look at your list of friends.  That link gives you to option to search for more friends.  Because Facebook wants you to add friends.  Not that they care about you having more friends.  They care that you network more and more, because that means their website is doing it’s job and advertisers will pay more to gain access to a website that automatically links their products to millions of people.

So therein is the problem: those who design Facebook (and website like it) aren’t providing a service for people because they want to.  They’re doing it because it makes money, and if that means a less than friendly user-interface, oh well.

In conclusion, I know how to find my friends list.  But I am also a casual user, and on the ocassion when I need it, it takes me longer than it should.  And that’s more my problem than it is theirs.  That does not change the fact that the owners of Facebook are ultimately in the business for the money, and when it’s obvious that they are, it irritates the crap out of me.

Note: We haven’t had internet access for the last two weeks because the only provider in this area sucks big donkey balls.  They “misinterpreted” a request to shut down service and cut it off two weeks early.  More posts will be forthcoming, so for now, courage!

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