The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Deirdre Macken macken.deirdre@

The other day I was search­ing through the set­tings on my Face­book ac­count look­ing for a way to block an­noy­ing ads and stop re­ceiv­ing posts about a friend’s brother’s niece’s first goal in soc­cer. Re­ally, I would have set­tled for a but­ton that said Anti-So­cial.

That’s what my kids call me when I tell them I try to stop new peo­ple join­ing my net­work. It’s not that I don’t like hear­ing from friends, I just don’t want to hear about their friends and their friend’s cousin’s wed­ding or the friend of a friend who liked an air­line for a chance at a free trip. Just flip through the feed, they say. Well, yes, there is that, but then I have to spend too much time flip­ping through junk just to find some­thing I pos­si­bly would like to know. I have a No Junk Mail on my let­ter­box, why can’t I have one on my FB box?

A friend re­minds me that I am in the me­dia and I should be us­ing so­cial me­dia to build my pro­file. And she’s right. In so­cial me­dia, you are the me­dia or you’re the au­di­ence and peo­ple like me are meant to be the me­dia. We should be work­ing on get­ting fol­low­ers — 50,000 at least, 500,000 if you re­ally want to mon­e­tise it.

Part of me wants to be­lieve that so­cial me­dia is a way of keep­ing up with friends but sen­si­ble me knows it’s just a way for ev­ery­one to make money. For users it’s a chance to turn chat into out­comes. They’re mon­etis­ing their net­works, con­duct­ing po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns, build­ing a mar­ket for a prod­uct or build­ing an im­age for a job. But the hard­est worker is Face­book.

Our friend­ships are the busi­ness model for Face­book and, for that model to work best, FB needs us to be­have in cer­tain ways. It makes money when users have big net­works, when they check their feed of­ten, when they are ac­tive — lik­ing, com­ment­ing, shar­ing and pro­vid­ing data to FB and its ad­ver­tis­ers about what sort of prod­ucts they will buy. We are the mar­ket. Our de­sire for con­nec­tion puts us on the road to con­sump­tion. They’ve re­made friend­ship in the im­age of a busi­ness model.

I know, I’m late to this re­al­i­sa­tion. And I know I won’t find a so­lu­tion in the pri­vacy set­tings FB pro­vides. Hell, you can’t can­cel ads, you can just re­fine the in­for­ma­tion you give so FB can cal­i­brate the ads to you more pre­cisely.

So, I’m grad­u­ally giv­ing up on Face­book and fo­cus­ing more on In­sta­gram, where I am ruth­less about who I let into my net­work. I’m sorry dis­tant rel­a­tives, friends of friends and peo­ple I can’t re­mem­ber meet­ing, you’re not get­ting on to my feed be­cause I don’t want to turn In­sta­gram into a pile of mail I’m not in­ter­ested in.

And some of my young friends agree. Young peo­ple have left FB in droves. If you were to take a snap­shot of the peo­ple most ac­tive on FB to­day, it would look like a sub­ur­ban cafe at 10am Tues­day morn­ing. Younger peo­ple have fled to net­works like In­sta­gram, Snapchat, Mes­sen­ger, What­sApp groups and what­ever new meet-up is catch­ing their fancy.

Face­book knows this. That’s why it is push­ing its new Di­rect but­ton, which iso­lates your post to dis­creet groups. That’s why it keeps prompt­ing users to share re­cent pho­tos such as the one of a wash­ing ma­chine’s di­men­sions that I took in a shop yes­ter­day. That’s why it wor­ries about the “con­text col­lapse” that comes from see­ing posts from a friend’s brother’s niece. That’s why it keeps prompt­ing us to share pre­cious mem­o­ries from a year ago. Mark Zucker­berg said as much last year when he ad­mit­ted peo­ple were shar­ing less about them­selves on the site, even if they’re still shar­ing cat videos, memes and fake news. And when we stop shar­ing per­sonal stuff on FB, the busi­ness model starts to col­lapse.

Too late, Face­book. You turned our friend­ships into a mar­ket­place, you pol­luted our con­ver­sa­tions with ad­ver­tis­ing. You thought we’d put up with news from a friend’s brother’s niece’s first day at soc­cer so you could reap more data from us. But some of us are wis­ing up. The smart ones left a long time ago and the en­trepreneurs re­main only to milk your sys­tem but peo­ple who just want to be friends have de­cided there’s power in be­com­ing anti-so­cial in an age of so­cial me­dia.

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