Big Tech lied to us years ago when they predicted that the online experience would be as smooth as silk by 2020. With predictions of lightning-speed internet and and a mind-boggling array of customization and user-friendly controls, one would have thought that by now navigating the internet would have been been as easy as walking to the fridge and grabbing a coke.
But alas.. we did not count on the obfuscation factor. Obfuscation is when someone deliberately ruins a good thing through an excess of control, which equates to paranoiac micro-management of details that should be left to the consumer. If a consumer buys, or ‘buys into,’ a product, it is assumed (at least from an advertising perspective) that he or she will be allowed to use it. It is upon that basis that remote controls become the natural and obvious corollary of the television set. There is probably an equation that could be worked out affirming that the value of a product increases in direct proportion to its usability.
But in reality, there is no such thing. For whatever reason, computers have become slower while more complex, and systems have become more convoluted while less transparent.
In the case of Facebook, the final straw for me was when it finally forced users to opt for a new layout, which made it harder to navigate. We needed an instruction book, but all we got was boiler-plate. Instead of Facebook inventing a remote control and then handing it to the user, it created a complex labyrinth which plays out like an 80’s Nintendo game in which one must aimlessly wander in search of a way out. When you think you’ve finally found it, the door disappears. And then you usually end up giving up anyway, because.. well, you’ve got things to do.
What really peeves me about Facebook is the fact that one cannot control one’s own content. In other words, given my settings and preferences (which seem customizable enough), I am still unable to control what is considered ‘relevant.’ Not that I ever used Facebook a great deal. Some days I didn’t even sign on. But the reason for my lack of use was likely due to the progression of the app’s un-usability. Or maybe it was my not being tech-savvy enough.
I don’t mind ‘unfollowing’ people who hammer on about politics, their tailored-to-awe social lives, or even their baby pictures which they share profusely every day and which all look exactly the same. What I mind is that when I wanted to view something, I could never find it. Or when I did find it, and inadvertently clicked away for a moment, I couldn’t get back to it again. This is especially frustrating when one is trying to find relevant material in a discussion forum. If you find something that is relevant, you can’t just bookmark it and come back to it later. It may disappear, due to the shifting sands of algorithm-generated content.
Apart from obvious privacy concerns (which would require another article to discuss), the main drawback of Facebook, and which will finally prove their own undoing, is the continued obfuscation of the user experience. Many of us are busier today than we were ten or fifteen years ago. Life is proceeding at a faster pace, and communication outlets have increased and are constantly jockeying for a position in the world of spin. We are being absolutely bombarded with information. Filtration may sometimes be necessary.. but the controls need to be delegated back to consumers if you want them to go on using your product. If the companies keeps the controls, or dole them out too sparingly, we are back to square one again and must get off our butts every time we want to change the channel. If the trend continues, consumers will soon hit a brick wall of unilateralism. And that is a big word which means Tech is making all the decisions for you. No thanks, I’ll take my time and thought-investment elsewhere.