Reverse Network Effect

Ben Brown on Facebook:

For me, the big problem with Facebook is the plain fact that it’s an extremely annoying piece of software. I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs about all the stupid, nasty, and sometimes scary things Facebook has done, but that would be only slightly better than having to experience them all yourself. The central issue for me is that Facebook sufferes a severe reverse network effect: the more people who join, the less useful it becomes.

Before I quit, I was “connecting” with was an increasingly diverse and undifferentiated group of people ranging from senior executives at various large and important sounding companies to my best friend’s drunk little brother who never moved out of his home town and now grows pot and fights pitbulls in his basement. (Read about the collision of “fronts”.) I mean, it is great that I can inform such a wide and diverse audience about every minute change to my personal metadata, but is this something I ever really needed or wanted? And when the plugin applications came along, and then Beacon, the signal to noise ratio was thrown totally out of whack. Whispering endlessly into a room crowded with everyone I’ve ever met while simultaneously being badgered by evil robotic clone versions of those same people that insistently try to trick me into buy things from HAS NEVER BEEN SO MUCH FUN!!!

It is important to remember that sites like Facebook are pieces of software that we can choose to use or not use, just like we choose to use Firefox or Safari or neither. There is a perception that we are obligated to use social network sites like Facebook or MySpace because our friends start using them, and if we don’t, we will functionally lose the friends who do - every important announcement, party invite, and funny video will be locked away from us. This is a very dangerous way to think! Joining and being a part of Facebook is absolutely not an inevitability. If a piece of social software causes people who do not choose to use it to become ostracized, there is a serious flaw in that piece of software.

(Mickey Kaus-style emphasis added)