Why Facebook Should Make Filters Easier

This article is contributed by Kimberly Wilson

I read an interesting article the other day about how frictionless online sharing is causing information overload and thus decreasing the practical value of social media. This not only affects the casual users of social media, it also affects the marketers.

How Frictionless Sharing Is Making Facebook Meaningless

The article had an interesting point: Many online applications (such as Spotify, which updates every song you play onto Facebook) have made online sharing so automated and omnipresent that the practical value of information on social media sites like Facebook has diminished severely. Essentially, we are being spammed by our friends every second of the day with information about what they are reading, what they are listening to, and even where they are.

How Friction Can Be Created Beyond Just Direct Communication

While I think the article brings up some interesting points, I believe it places too much criticism on the automated applications that instantly share the most mundane activity to the world. The author contrasts these auto-updates with frictional social contact like direct messaging.

However, I believe that a lot of communication in real life is done without direct language communication. Consider, for example, when you enter a friends’ house and look at their bookshelf. You take note of which books or movies or music they have that you find interesting, but you don’t necessarily have to talk to them about it.

If I don’t have to go out of my way to let people see what music I hear in my own home, why would I need to go out of my way to tell a friend online, “Hey, I’m listening to Kanye West right now, and it’s awesome.” Sure, it is a more meaningful way of sharing my music with others, but what if I want a casual way to share to not every one of my Facebook friends, but the select few I would invite into my home?

Facebook Actually Allows Filtered Sharing … But It’s Tedious

I was actually surprised when I found out the level of customization that Facebook allows, even through third party web applications like Spotify. Not only can you specify who (if anyone) will see what you listen to through Spotify, you can also specify whether Spotify information on your friends will show up your own feed.

However, specifying both your outbound and inbound information filters is hardly intuitive. For instance, to change how you broadcast your Spotify updates, you have to do the following:

  1. Click the options arrow in the top-right corner of Facebook
  2. Click on “Apps” on the left menu bar
  3. Find Spotify, and click “Edit”
  4. Under “App activity privacy,” you can change it from “Friends” to “Public” or any other custom list of Facebook friends.

Of course, you still have to decide which of your friends you actually care to share your music listening habits with, and then you have to make a list of these friends. A little too much effort for most, so it seems likely that most people either share to all or none.

Specifying who you want to receive Spotify feeds is relatively simple, yet it can still be somewhat clunky. If you want to disable Spotify feeds altogether, you just need to click a Spotify update in your live ticker (top far right column), click the options arrow in the top right corner of the box that opens, and click “Hide all be Spotify.”

However, specifying a selective Spotify feed is somewhat cumbersome. You are automatically subscribed to all of your friends, so to specify your feed you have to unsubscribe to select people. You always have the option of clicking on someone’s Facebook profile, hovering your mouse over “Subscribed,” and unchecking “Music and Videos.” You can also do this from the live ticker by hovering over a friend’s name, and changing what subscriptions you have to their feed. Still, this is all one-friend-at-a-time filtering, and is hardly practical if you have 500 or so friends.

From what I can tell, there is no way to subscribe only to a select list of friends’ Spotify updates, and have only that limited selection feed your live ticker and Facebook main feed page. If you create a list of select friends, you can alter feed specifications for that list’s feed, but it won’t impact your universal feed. There is no way to filter certain criteria (like Spotify updates) from groups or “lists” of friends away from your central feed. You can only update filters within the list’s feed view, meaning you have to look on each list’s feed in order to get the specific criteria you filter from each list of friends.

Implications

I realize that I am asking for a lot of detailed and technical feed control that most users don’t even bother to use, but the fact that Facebook makes it so cumbersome and ineffective seems negligent. Furthermore, the ultimate level of “usability” for all of Facebook’s new online sharing applications seems to force users to share everything or share nothing, see everything of the app on your feed or see nothing.

I fear this current trend on Facebook of “oversharing” will result in less people utilizing these applications that have large communication potential. They just need more customization over who sees your feed and which feeds for which applications you want to see. Until that level of customization happens, I worry that most people will decide to either not use these applications or choose to hide them in their feed.

Byline:

This article is contributed by Kimberly Wilson. Kimberly is from accredited online colleges, she writes on topics including career, education, student life, college life, home improvement, time management etc.

One thought on “Why Facebook Should Make Filters Easier”

  1. This is an important topic to be raising, Kimberly, and IMHO Google Plus with its circles provides a much more flexible way of selectively sharing with groups of your friends. This may be the key factor in people choosing which social media they wish to use in the future.

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