We all know that the delineation between public and private was eroded by Facebook a long time ago. Over. Done. But now Facebook’s sheer scale is pushing it in a new direction, one that encroaches on your authenticity.
Facebook is no longer a social network. They stopped being one long before the movie. Facebook is really a huge broadcast platform. Everything that happens between its walls is one degree away from being public, one massive auditorium filled with everyone you’ve ever met, most of whom you haven’t seen or spoken to in years.
Last week a bunch of massive sites across the Web, including TechCrunch, adopted Facebook commenting. The integration of the formatting and fonts is so strong that when you’re reading comments you actually feel like you are on Facebook, not a tech focused vertical site.
This latest push by Facebook to tie people to one identity across the interWebs is very troublesome.
The problem with tying Internet-wide identity to a broadcast network like Facebook is that people don’t want one normalized identity, either in real life, or virtually.
People yearn to be individuals. They want to be authentic. They have numerous different groups of real-life friends. They stylize conversations. They are emotional and have an innate need to connect on different levels with different people. This is because humans are born with an instinctual desire to understand the broader context of their surroundings and build rapport, a social awareness often called emotional intelligence.
In the beginning, Facebook catered to this instinct we all have. But FB in its current form, a big graph of people who may or may not know anything about one another, does not.
And forcing people to comment and more broadly speaking to log-on with one identity puts a massive stranglehold on our very nature. I’m not too worried about FB Comments in isolation, but the writing is on the wall: all of this off-site encroachment of the Facebook graph portends where FB is really going in pushing one identity. And a uniform identity defies us.
Face it, authenticity goes way down when people know their 700 friends, grandma, and five ex-girlfriends are tuning in each time they post something on the Web.
Don’t believe me? Go to TechCrunch and count the comments on last week’s posts. Better yet, go read the comments. They suck. They’re sterile and neutered.
The nature of commenting on the Web needs to feel organic and fluid, just like it does in real life. And even anonymous if necessary, though that’s not at the core of my argument.
My main contention is that the off-network spread of Facebook’s identity graph is parasitic for the Web. Now – just to join the best technology community on the Internet (TechCrunch) – we need to live inside Facebook walls.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me why this is happening. The carrot here for content sites is clear: even with a lower volume of comments, the potential viral effects and CTRs are something parent sites like AOL are surely extrapolating, based on their recent manifesto to boost reach, drive traffic, and maximise page views (though I’d argue they would perform much better on mainstream sites like HuffPo or TMZ than a niche vertical like TC, which your friends are less likely to be aware of).
There’s a pretty straightforward reason why FB is valued at an astonishing $75B, and it’s all about them forming a reciprocal feedback loop between Facebook.com and other sites so that you can be targeted.
But for such a massively social company, Facebook’s insistence that you have one identity across the Web is both short-sighted and asinine, and people I talk to are starting to realise this.
Fact is, one social network will not rule the Web… People are simply way too social to allow that.
This post originally appeared at Steve’s blog.