Wednesday, April 16, 2014

If I Could Redesign Facebook

Like most everyone else who uses it, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. But since the GooglePlus revolution never ended up happening, and MySpace is still the social media equivalent of the drooling idiot cousin chained up in the cellar (and rightly so), this is what we're stuck with for now. Might as well make the best of it.

Although it's easy to complain about Facebook, hey, it's free and you basically get what you pay for. But that doesn't stop me from imagining what I'd do if I ran Facebook and could unilaterally make policy decisions and changes. Here's what I'd do to make it better, or at least what in my opinion constitutes "better".

Three Levels Of Friends
Okay, so you're on Facebook and you're getting Friend requests. I think that when you friend someone, you should have three different yet simple options on how to categorize them, with no need to mess with privacy settings or what have you.

  • Buddies. These are the people you care about. Hey, they're your buddies! Doesn't matter if they're related to you or not; that distinction doesn't enter into it. You care about your buddies. You want to know what they're up to, so you get all of their updates and posts. Nothing is held back.
  • Just Friends. This is used in the same context as when you see a hot girl with some average dude, and you ask, "Are you two dating?", and she replies with this big smile and sing-song voice "Oh, no, we're just friends!", as the guy looks on with a painful forced smile that cries "Help, I've just been emasculated!" in a silent scream of abysmal horror. Just Friends are in your orbit, but you only care about them some of the time, so you only get urgent updates and the occasional random statuses, as determined by specially designed algorithms or ancient Druids.
  • Yeah, Whatever. There are people out there that you find yourself obligated to Friend. Maybe they're part of your social circle or chief area of interest/hobby, and you look conspicuous not friending them. Maybe they're friends with your significant other. Maybe you lost a bet. But for whatever reason, you must friend them. You must. Even if you "accidentally" drop them somewhere down the road, they hunt you down like some deranged Internet version of Inspector Javert and send out a new friend request. So, okay, fine. Whatever. You friend them. But since they are Yeah Whatever, you get no status updates, no shares, no news, nothing. It's like they don't exist. No tragically misinformed "news stories" showing that Obama caused the deficit. No lame pictures of toddlers with a caption reading 'Back off, Devil! I love Jesus!" Not. A. Thing. But since they're on your Friends list, they won't bother you with any further requests. Everybody wins!
Polydactyl cat gives a big thumbs up to sad Facebook statuses
Like And Acknowledgements
I don't know about you, but I find it hard to click "Like" when a friend posts a status like "Bad news. When I pulled into my driveway, my car's engine blew up and rocketed right into my house, pulverizing my visiting cousin. Funeral services will be held once we find all of his remains."

Sure, you want to acknowledge the post, but I don't know, hitting "Like" makes it sound that you're a fan of relatives being killed by fiery automobile parts. So, we need "Acknowledged", which would mean something like "Hey, just so you know, I read your status, and will comment later on when time allows. But for now, just want you to know I'm aware of what happened."

Picture Blocking
A picture is worth a 1,000 words, and a hideous picture screams 1,000 horrific words usually reserved from summoning Cthulhu (more on him later). My version of Facebook gives you the option of blocking images. So, don't feel like seeing that picture of that abused dog or starving kitten? Blocked. Some really hideous picture of an open wound or birth defect? Pre-emptive unseeing!

Because you just know that if you actually posted something online about how you didn't like any given picture, at least one person in your tragically misnamed Friend list would make sure to post multiple images on your timeline, thereby reinforcing the idea that the Internet turns most of us into jackasses at one time or another.

New Story Repetition Filter
Tea Party militia support angry citizen's right to sit on a
disconnected toilet on Federal Government property
The problem with having a news feed that draws from many disparate groups of friends, family, co-workers, and miscellaneous is that you end up getting multiple posts of the same news story. And in my opinion, nothing diminishes the emotional impact of a tragedy or other story than seeing it repeated countless times on your pages. Eventually, your reaction goes from "Oh, how horrible! My best prayers and thoughts to them!" to "Oh, enough already!". And that is bad.

But with the New Story Repetition Filter, certain keywords are searched for and if they repeat, the story is blocked if it's already been displayed to you once. So, when VladimirPutin strips naked, covers himself in Vaseline, and rides an ICBM screaming and hollering into the Crimea, you only have to read it once. And if the Picture Blocking function is in effect, you don't have to worry about unseeing that image!

Ads That Make Sense
Look, you don't get something for nothing. I don't want to shell out money for Facebook; God knows, I pay for enough things as it is. And yet I want Facebook. I want that effortless contact with people I've long forgotten! I want endless stories about cats. I want the ability to have a group conversation with someone from my high school class, a former co-worker, a distant cousin, Jim Gaffigan, two people from my gaming group, and my pastor; all of us discussing the merits of regular colonoscopies.
Mature singles are waiting to hook up with you NOW!

So yes, I accept that ads are a necessary evil. But in my version of Facebook, if you fill out your profile completely, the algorithms (or the Druids) will make sure that the ads you get are not only relevant to you, they're in your native language. I don't want ads in Spanish. I don't want ads for meeting singles who are 50+ years old. I don't want ads for online games. I don't want ads for candidates, causes, and groups that are in direct opposition to my political ideologies. And speaking of politics...

Ban Every Position On Religion And Politics That I Disagree With
Don't we have enough aggravation during the day without coming home, logging onto Facebook and seeing "Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Constitution that we can have armor-piercing bullets! Murica!", or "Ha ha, you believe in some dude in a robe who lives on a cloud, duhr duhr duhr!" Seriously, people do a good enough job of pissing us off in person (or in their cars), without us having to deal with it online. The Religion/Politics Position Filter makes sure that you aren't subjected to this kind of annoyance.

Now, you may think that such a function is a close-minded thing, but I ask you...Has anyone every really read a Facebook post, smacked their forehead with the heel of their palm and said "Son of a gun! I must now completely reassess all of my beliefs, political, religious, or otherwise, in light of this well-thought out, coherent post!"

I didn't think so...

The ban stays.

Meme Blockers
Picture if you will a drop-down menu with the following items on it:
  • Keep Calm Posters
  • The Most Interesting Man In The World Pictures
  • Stock Illustrations With Modern Text Inserted
  • That Annoyingly Smug Picture Of Willy Wonka
  • Grumpy Cat
  • Cthulhu
Now picture a little box next to each entry. Had enough of a particular meme? Click on the box and you won't get it anymore. And the list would be continually updated, bringing in new memes when they reach that level of annoying over-whelming saturation, as well as dropping the memes that finally died the horrible death by obscurity and indifference that they richly deserve.

The "Are You Sure?" Function
I touched upon something related to this in an earlier post. Let's say you have friended two people who are involved in a relationship. Then they have a very public, very acrimonious split. They go their separate ways. A few months later, they get back together, making an online promise of being together forever and never to part. Six months later, they undergo another nasty public split but this one's so vile and toxic, that you know that no one, not the biggest lunatics, not even Jack and Jackie McMad, winners of the Maddest Madfolk in Madville Competition, would ever reunite. A Beatles reunion of all four members would be more likely at this point. So of course, four months later, they reunite, pledging online that they will never give each other up, never let each other down, never going to run around, or hurt each other.
"I see what you did there"

While your brain is in the process of exploding, you post the following: "For the love of God! Stop! Would you please just stop?! What's wrong with you two? Are you insane? Are you masochists? You two are about as pleasant a combination as chronic flatulence and a crowded elevator! Why in the name of all that doesn't suck are you subjecting yourselves, and us, to this idiocy? Read what Santayana had to say! Have you two completely lost your minds?" And then, with a big smile and a burden that's finally been lifted off your shoulders, you hit "Enter".

Oh, didn't that feel good?

And here's where my new innovation, the delayed action "Are You Sure?" function, kicks in. Call it the equivalent of a 20-second delay on a live microphone. The message gets held up, not actually posted, and a dialogue box pops up, showing you the entire message in all its flaming glory, along with "Think about it. Are you really sure you want to send this?"

This way, you can have the visceral pleasure of writing a well-deserved dressing down, experience that satisfaction of pushing "Enter", but then, with your urges satisfied, you can step back from the ledge and cancel it.

And so, there you have it. Facebook, JT style.

Did I leave anything out?

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