There’s a post over at Soshable this week which I really think is worth sharing, precisely because it says something quite important right now about the value of sharing. The point is pretty simple – but nonetheless millions of Facebook users (and, more worryingly, Facebook programmers) have all failed to notice it, or in any case to act in solving it. What is this lurking ominous spectre of which I speak? It no less than the sordid blight of over-sharing…
The concept of over-sharing is straightforward: sharing only has value if it is in some way special – rare or personalised, and if it becomes too ubiquitous then it simply becomes spam. The problem is that Facebook apps are now generally sharing every single little detail of what you do online that the noise is deafening. In other words you’re constantly receiving hundreds of shared links, videos, info etc that they tend to lose their value (i.e. their ability to warrant your attention).
Most people start to switch off when this happens, which is a big potential problem for Facebook if their innovative Like button ceases to actually function – or rather has its functionality made irrelevant by the simple fact that Likes just get drowned out in the sea of info shared by user apps.
JD Rucker, who runs the Soshable blog, makes the obvious and pertinent point – sharing is already super easy. People are doing it a lot anyway but that doesn’t mean that they don’t make value judgements about what to share/like. Apps are not capable of making such value judgements – they just pump out the info because they can (in the hope it will benefit them).
The only solution is to remove apps which you don’t want or use in a last ditch attempt to clean up your newsfeed so that you can actually use it how you like to. In the long run though, this surely represents a challenge to Facebook (I’ve written previously on this most pressing of issues for the network – too much data) and the only real threat to user numbers by virtue of the fact that it can very directly impact upon their UI, which is a highly visible turn-off for users if it doesn’t work satisfactorily (privacy issues meanwhile tend to be more latent and only bother certain sections of users, meaning it’s unlikely the company could shoot itself in the foot as badly in this department).
Ultimately though, the end result might be that users really evaluate a little more thoroughly which apps they want to install (just like they should evaluate which friends they want to add) and this might overall reduce the volume of spam on the network if the bar for app success gets raised that little bit higher.
The only way this will happen though is if users realise the need to de-clutter their apps before they simply decide to use Facebook less because they enjoy the experience less than they used to – but aren’t quite sure why (since not everyone is likely to figure out that over-sharing is the problem).