I'll admit that headline is partly tongue in cheek, but it does express my sincere dream of Facebook's ultimate fate. And I say that as someone who has used Facebook for years and will continue to do so for the near future.
Here's the thing: I'm neither an extreme privacy nut nor a let-it-all-hang-out-online type of guy. Obviously I don't mind sharing some personal information about myself since I have Facebook, Google+, and Twitter accounts, and I'm writing this essay on an extremely public blog. These days if you want to keep everything about your life private your only choice is to drop off the grid, become a wanderer, or be a Unabomber-style hermit (just don't mail your 50 page manifesto to the NY Times, causing your brother to recognize you). Honestly, this shouldn't surprise anyone—human society has always placed a premium on knowing all we can about each other. Go back to any human village or community over the last 10,000 years and you'll find absolutely zero privacy. Everyone knew everything about you.
Aside from hermits, wanderers, and off-the grid individuals, it was only with the rise of large cities that people could escape from this all-intrusive knowledge about their lives. With large cities, it was possible for people to disappear into a large mass of humanity. You could reinvent yourself. You could become anyone you wished.
Of course, this isn't to say that people don't also know lots about you in large cities. But the possibility to create your own private space was at least there.
And now along comes social media, which threatens to take us back to the dawn of humanity. We're reverting to village groups again, where everyone knows our business.
As I mentioned, I'm mostly okay with this. So far the benefits of social media have outweighed the negatives, at least in my own life. However, two things I do demand are the abilities to control what information I put out about myself and how I interact with others online. And that's where Facebook continues to spit directly in my face.
I don't have major issues with their new Timeline feature. It is what it is. However, what I absolutely hate is the continuing lack of control Facebook gives me over my own social media experience. For example, I used to know instantly when anyone responded to one of my posts. Not anymore—those reponses are hidden in a blizzard of Facebook notifications. I've recently missed several comments from friends who posted on my status updates.
I also hate how Facebook makes it difficult for me to control all of my privacy settings. Everytime I try to change a setting, I spend a half-hour hunting for the spot where Mark Zuckerberg's drones hid said control.
This poor Facebook experience was driven home for me when I recently examined my Google Dashboard. Talk about a complete 180 from Facebook—privacy information from all of my Google accounts was centrally located and easy to both understand and change. I'll admit that when Google announced its recent privacy changes I was concerned. But as long as they continue to offer something as brilliant as their Dashboard, I'll accept their privacy rules. Google understands that people want to both control what they put out and how they interact with others.
And that, I surpose, is the point of this ramble. I accept that by using social media I am giving Facebook, Google, and other places valuable information about myself. For now, the benefits I receive make this worth it. But Facebook is quickly failing in this cost/benefit analysis.
Facebook is now the used-car salesman of the social media world, forever trying to trick you into signing away more than you intend. Google, though, understands that they don't have to trick people into buying their groovy social media car. Yes, Google makes mistakes, but at least they lay out the information for you and allow you to make most of your own choices.
So for now I'm okay with the direction my social media village is going. Since so many of my friends use Facebook, I'll continue to show up there. But I also hope Google+ keeps growing and threatening to squash Facebook like the bug they are. Because I suspect the threat of being squashed is the only way Zuckerberg and company will eventually realize that their business model must be based on giving people the control they desire—and not the lack of control Facebook currently embraces.