Thursday, December 2, 2010

LAFB #6: The (d)evolution of the "like" page

I joined FaceBook in January 2005; relatively speaking, that makes me a grandfather, a pioneer of the FaceBooking world in a sense.  I joined the LSU network, which required that I have and use my @LSU.edu address to join.  I then could load my class schedule and find other students who have loaded the same schedule and connect with them, as well as finding other friends whose schools had been added as networks and become friends with them, but unless they were on the same network as I was, I could not see their page.  I had friends who changed schools in the early days, and they had to create a new page on their new network, then add all of their friends a second time, effectively allowing them to have two pages, but with the added hassle of keeping up with two pages at once.

Soon after this started, someone discovered a way around only having one page: alternate email addresses.  For example, at LSU, I could receive email at jbrewe6@lsu.edu AND jbrewe6@PAWS.lsu.edu (don't worry, it's a dead address, so I'm not worried about spam).  Therefore, I could create a second page under the second address.  Some people gave away their alternate address to friends who weren't in college and wanted in on the FaceBook thing, but other people made fake pages, which I did for William Shakespeare, along with about a dozen other people across the country.  I (WS) was even "married" to some feminist chick across the country I had never met, but who had been the first to be my friend.  It was fun at first, but eventually I got tired of keeping up with the page since I wasn't doing anything with it.  This is the same reason I got rid of my MySpace profile. 

Additionally, I became friends with The Thnikkaman and Captain Homsar of the Gravy Train (characters from HomeStar Runner, there I go dating myself again), which was fun for awhile, but the trend eventually died out.  I had friends with pages for Mario and Luigi, as well as "Fat Boy," a guy's cat, but eventually the joke got old.  Also, FaceBook shut down a large number of these pages.  As i was still friends with the HomeStar Runner characters when I shut my FaceBook down, they obviously only cared a little bit.

The problem with the fake profile is you had to operate it like a real profile, meaning you had to keep adding friends.  If you have a group, however, designed to be a fan club, then you can let people join without having to approve every single one; the only problem was that most groups died out from lack of use.  Sure, there were message boards for discussion and posting of links, videos, and pictures, but most groups (e.g. "I sleep with one leg kicked out from under the sheets," "I went to public school, B****!") grew into "bumper sticker groups," meaning people only joined in order to have the name of the group show up on their profile.

Only a couple of years ago, FaceBook decided to introduce the Fan Page.  This combined the body of a fake profile with the spirit and convenience of a group.  The difference is, most Fan Pages were legitimate profiles.  Also, since a person is limited by FaceBook to 5000 friends, as many people could become fans as desired, and nobody had to accept their friend requests.  Also, no defriending or rejecting friend requests.  Whether you were Sean Payton or Kobe Bryant, you could have as many fans as wanted to be fans of you.

Of course, what FaceBook found in this was the potential for marketing.  Got a new store?  Fan page!  Rising star?  Fan page!  Social movement?  Fan page!  But, of course, much of what drives FaceBook's populace is satire.  How did we get the common status message?  Originally, it was intended for "Zechariah is at work/school/home/the mall," or fill in the blank.  The status message quickly became "Zechariah is awesome" or "Zechariah is better than you."  Of course, the "is" required use of passive voice, "Zechariah is wanting ice cream," so after a couple of years, FaceBook dropped the "is" from the status.  Similarly, the satirists quickly created a page that allowed you to "Become a fan of not getting eaten by velociraptors" or "Become a fan of not being on fire."  I joined a couple of these, but then my news feed was flooded by statuses of "Not Being On Fire HAS 50,000 FANS!!!!!!  BUY NOT BEING ON FIRE SHIRTS NOW!!!!!!"  Similarly, the social movement page became a source for polarization and bickering, which is ironic, because in order to argue against people in the "Marriage = 1 man + 1 woman" page, you had to become a fan. 

Lastly, the "Become a Fan" button was reduced into "Like" and it got as general as possible.  I remember seeing ads on the side that said, "SPORTS!  Many people who like MUSIC also like this."  Really?  You don't say.  People started going like-crazy, and there was no end to the number of pages you could like, and like pages were created for anything and everything.  Worst of all, you could create a like page without providing any explanation whatsoever.  You might see "Zechariah likes Nobody puts baby in the corner" and wonder what that means...sorry, you click on the page and see no explanation whatsoever.  Didn't see Dirty Dancing?  Too bad, no explanation for you.

So, since the majority of my news feed became inane like pages and inane status messages (have I talked about that yet?), I knew there was no point in sticking around.

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