Most of us have had Facebook accounts for the past few years, if not a decade. But time and bloat have turned once-beloved font of nostalgia into an onslaught of faux-sentimental sludge from strangers. So as Facebook stands poised to break itself into a bunch of different apps, we say to you: Screw it. It's time to start fresh.
When Facebook opened to the public in 2006, it made a convincing case that it could live up to its moniker. Enough people you cared about joined in to make it an effective social planner, phone book, and photo album all wrapped in a singular, virtual package. It was, for all intents and purposes, the perfect social network. But then it kept growing.
Facebook added Marketplace, chats, Pages, friends lists, Newsfeed, @replies, Timeline — the list goes on and on. Some additions worked, many didn't, but the single truth that Facebook eventually grew too big for its own, and more importantly our, good. As Ellis Hamburger pointed out at the Verge earlier this week, Facebook's become too big to ever feel small again.
So in an attempt to to chase the trend of more intimate, single-serving social media apps, Zuck and co. want to retrofit the Facebook we know and (still kind of a little bit) love into the neat, tiny, separate packages that represent everything Facebook is not. The process has already started with Messages, a bedrock feature that's about to be jettisoned from the main Facebook app into a standalone replacement. And that's just the beginning. In a recent NYT interview, Zuck made loud and clear about his intention to start "unbundling the big blue app."
Or maybe that should be "continue." There are already separate apps for Facebook camera and Pages; it's only a matter of time before Facebook starts kicking those and other major functions out of the main Facebook app, forcing users into a bizarre approximation of the niche social apps it so desperately wants to emulate. Instead of going to Facebook, you'll go to your phone's Facebook folder and choose from among your five or six hyper-specialised options.
In and of itself that's more of an inconvenience than a reason to leave. But then you remember that just because your Facebook apps have gone micro, your friend list is just as bloated as ever. You might be focusing on just photos, but you're still sharing them with the same weirdos you've picked up over the years breathing down your neck at every turn.
If we're going to be forced into using these specialised social media apps whether we like it or not, we might as well start over. Friend lists created from scratch. Singular apps that excel at singular functions. A brave new social world, filled with people you actually like, sharing only the things you care about. Sounds nice, doesn't it? Here's your new social diet.
- Messages: GroupMe. A certain recent, $US16 billion acquisition might seem like the obvious choice, but until there's an in-browser version, GroupMe will always be number one in our hearts. [iOS, Android, Windows Phone]
- Photos: Instagram. Fortunately for Zuck, he already owns this one. Everyone wins! (Except Hipstamatic, RIP Hipstamatic.) [iOS, Android, Windows Phone]
- Events: EventBrite. This works whether you're trying to organise a small group of friends or a massive live event. Plus, unlike Facebook, you have the option of collecting ticket money. [iOS, Android,Windows Phone]
- News Feed: Twitter. Because if you're following the people and things you actually care about, you're going to want to see more than 35% of what they have to say. [iOS, Android, Windows Phone]
- Places: Foursquare. It feels far more private, which is extra important where physical location is involved. Plus: discounts! [iOS, Android, Windows Phone]
- Poke: Snapchat. More options, more fun, and all of the ephemerality. [iOS, Android, Windows Phone]
- Family Sharing: Path. Your next of kin still want to be in the loop. This is easy to use, super private, and full of enough sharing tools to keep Mum and Dad happy. [iOS, Android, Windows Phone]
- Pages: Paper. Surprise! This is actually one service that Facebook can provide better than anyone else, a beautiful roundup of the best stories — from friends or news organisations — that best reflects why we joined Facebook in the first place. Downside: still only for iOS. [iOS]
The idea of leaving Facebook might make you uneasy, but the Facebook you know is going to leave you whether you like it or not. So we might as well move on to something better, brighter, and wholly devoid of all our lukewarm acquaintances and friends' cousins' ex-boyfriends. Because try as Facebook might to squeeze itself into a world of super specialised tiny containers, the made-to-fit services do it better. More importantly, they give us what everyone deserves: a fresh start.