Dr. Zuckerberg, or: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ourselves

Facebook was conceived as a place to connect, a place to communicate. But over time, something changed, and it began to be more of an exercise in self-promotion and a document of our collected vanity. In Zuckerberg & Co.’s newest “Timeline” feature, far more emphasis is placed on one’s self rather than one’s network.

The concept behind Timeline is that within each of us, lays a fantastic, compelling multimedia autobiography. By showing every miniscule, infantile detail as wrinkles in a much larger patchwork of stories, Facebook believes they’re making something beautiful. And while they may just be, they are sacrificing their original business model for grandeur and dramatics. What about those of us who just want to post cat videos on our friends’ walls? More importantly, when did social media denote self-marketing?

For the last two months, I’ve worked as a Social Media Manager for a premier marketing and design firm in Chicago. Day-in and day-out I spend all day jawing about the importance of staying connected and the benefits of previously unseen brand access through tools like Facebook and Twitter and so on. Their business interest, of course, is a bit more self-centered than personal users by nature. Or so it should be.

Pieces of the Timeline have begun to surface, most notably with Spotify’s newfound best-friendship with Facebook. The beauty of the freemium service has been well documented, but the strongest for argument’s sake is the ability to connect with friends over music. This is wonderful, and provides many opportunities for my friends and I to share great music and playlists in ease; a previously cumbersome process, at best. Since coming to America, Spotify has partnered with Facebook to create an unprecedented forum for music sharing and discussion. In doing so, the two services have led me to disable their cohabitating social networking functions. I don’t see the need in letting you all know what I’m listening to in real time. Obviously, some of my friends disagree.

Does my mother need to know how many times I’ve listened to Fucked Up today? Does your obsession with Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” say anything about your originality? Is it noteworthy that I often listen to In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning in the afternoon?

Why is this overextension of content appropriate, relevant or recommended, let alone embraced by millions? To what gain is this practice used, other than the obvious benefits it has to Spotify and Facebook as for-profit organizations? How were we duped into thinking that every insignificant speck of harmless minutia is news?

To take a page from Bill Gates’ prescient 1996 commentary, “content is king.” Without unique, relatable, relevant and—above all—compelling content and information, a media campaign is useless, social or otherwise. This is important for me to highlight to our clients, but I think some of my Facebook friends could stand to learn that as well. Unfortunately, Facebook and their merry band of apps seem to want to exploit our self-love. A glaring misconception in the new world of Timeline is that absolutely everyone has an interesting story to share. Just a glance at my “news” feed begs to differ.

What happens with Timeline remains to be seen, but one perplexing point still reins true: Facebook is losing touch. The power of connection has been sidelined for enabling the masses for collective narcissism. Despite being the most powerful force in the customer data industry ever, Facebook lacks a complete understanding of their core competencies. All the while, we’re caught gazing stupidly into the grand, public mirror of the internet.

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