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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Are shares killing Facebook?

I joined Facebook in 2008 because I was attracted to its user-generated content: status updates and announcements, links to blogs, short messages, the occasional essay, uploaded photos and videos, and so forth from family and friends. I liked the user-generated content and the opportunity to interact with it, and I still do. At some subsequent time that I don't remember, however, Facebook began promoting its Share feature. Over time, content from third parties that my Facebook friends shared began to dominate my news feed — often without any introductory comment from my friend. Have you, too, seen this happen?

Some of the third-party content that comes my way through shares is as interesting, informative, or important as the user-generated content that first attracted me to Facebook. I'm grateful for that. The problem is, much of third-party content simply isn't interesting, informative, or important — and sometimes it's disagreeable in some way. In any event I find myself skipping more third-party content every month, except for family members and my closest friends whose activity I will follow 100% regardless.

Facebook provides tools to reduce content that I'm not interested in, but the tools are often surgery with blunt instruments. Perhaps Facebook has an incentive not to make these tools as powerful and precise as I would like. Many things beneficial to Facebook might happen when someone shares third-party content and especially when I click to read it. I don't know the business model of Facebook well, but I can imagine that their motivation to promote shared third-party content was and remains strong.

My purpose today is not to discourage any Facebook friend from sharing third-party content. Rather, I'm saying that in general I'm more interested in what you think, feel, or do — in your own words and images — than in what some third party says. That's why you are my friends!