Facebook’s latest redesign has started asking me a very simple question. Twitter-like, it asks, “What’s on your mind?”
Here’s the thing, Facebook. You’ve never really been about my mind. You’ve tried. But my mind and my social world just don’t always exist in the same place. You are about my social world, and my social interactions, my social capital and all the rest.
There’s something about the magic of the online world where all of a sudden people can get ‘credit’ for everything we do, everything we think. It started on blogs, where people published thought out ideas, and sites like Flickr, Youtube, all the rest, and all of a sudden we’re getting credit for our work, our hobbies. It’s not just our friends and our family, its an entire world out there, and to me, as probably many of my peers, getting a comment or a view is a uniquely satisfying experience, a validation of our actions and abilities. This tendency has really been taken to its natural extreme with Twitter, where suddenly we’re getting recognition and credit for our most miniscule thoughts and actions.
Here’s the thing: most of these things are enabled because we’re able to put them out in the open, where people with similar hobbies, interests and thoughts can find them. People who are not our friends. On the other hand, as much as people like to pretend we’re a generation of public action and little inhibitions, some of us actually value our privacy. And that’s where Facebook comes in: It’s not about your mind.
Facebook is where to go to get credit for that massive beer pong tournament you won on Saturday night. Or the trip to Vegas you went on with your girlfriends. Or your new girlfriend/boyfriend. Are these things you want to share with the world at large? Probably not. But they’re pretty important when it comes to jostling for position in your social network.
And so, unlike the rest of the internet, Facebook isn’t about your mind, or what you think. Facebook is about what you did.
The real problem with this update was that this redesign didn’t move us into a world where it becomes easier to distinguish between our peers’ actions and find the things that are meaningful to us. It doesn’t make it easier to find the actions that are worth crediting, or putting out information about actions we’d like to get credit for. Getting caught up in the Twitter hype is hard for everyone to avoid, but distinguishing what the real ‘needs’ of a user (the thing the user hopes to get out of using the service) is important, and if you don’t return to these roots as a designer, chances are, you’re not moving in the right direction.