Facebook has been telling us for years — with every privacy controversy, every indifferently received new feature, every complained-about redesign — that it is striving to build a better product. We all know that this hasn’t happened: Facebook remains a slightly useful and obligatory service that, on its best days, serves as an occasional source of entertainment, just as it was years ago.
So maybe it’s time for a new tactic. Instead of considering how Facbook could be better, how could it become even more horrible than it already is? Forget this whole “connect with friends” utopia. Just make Facebook into a massive “Lord of the Flies” machine.
How would we make Facebook as horrible as possible? Let’s start with how you interact with your “friends.”
In the past, some users have asked for a “don’t like” button. This proves that there’s already demand for a more hostile and combative social network. Facebook has always resisted — but even now is reportedly plotting a new way of gathering information about why users hide some of their friends’ status updates. Enough with these behind-the-scenes half-measures! Give us a dislike option, but don’t stop there: Add a rich continuum of passive-aggressive to openly hostile response options, from “Oh really?” to “Christ almighty you’re such a moron.” A service that could hurl a physical rock through your friend's bedroom window would also be a welcome addition.
On a related note, there’s been some confusion about whether users want to know how many of their friends see any given post. Clear that up by giving everyone all that data — and more. You’ll know who saw your update, when, and how many times; you will also be able to see, in real-time, the comments they considered writing but then deleted. And if your friend doesn’t leave feedback, Facebook algorithms will provide a “best guess” about what they thought: “Jim seems tired of your banal opinions about Trayvon Martin,” etc. True, Facebook’s algorithms aren’t perfect. But they are probably good enough to make your experience decidedly more horrible.
While we’re at it, unfriending should include an extra, extra-horrible step: A public denunciation of the unfriended, who will be granted a full rebuttal. This is followed by an open vote to determine who is really at fault for the broken connection. Acquaintances who are friends with both the unfriended and the unfriend-ee will be forced to choose which connection they would like to keep, and then make that declaration to their friends, in turn.
Finally, a new rule: Everyone will have to rank all friends, from most favorite to least. This information, of course, will be shared.
Now, we know that Facebook managers won’t wake up every day thinking about how making the service more horrible will earn the company a lot of money — but it does have a responsibility to shareholders. Luckily only a couple of changes to Facebook’s business practices are needed to adapt to a more horrible – and profitable! – future:
Advertising model tweak: Facebook will be able to use your name, likeness, and all the baby pictures you uploaded, on any ad, for any sponsor product or service whatsoever.
If you would like to opt out of this arrangement, you can pay a monthly fee, in an agreement that Facebook may or may not choose to honor.
And since this always seems to be the very last subject that tech companies address: Customer service. Facebook’s help and feedback boards, while fairly useless, aren’t really horrible enough. Replace them with a robust system of call centers, where live staff is available around the clock to respond to your questions and concerns — with condescending laughter and vicious insults.
Finally, all of these changes raise some privacy issues — hardly a surprise, since all Facebook changes raise privacy issues. Here’s how Facebook should address privacy, to make it even more horrible for everyone.
This is a no-brainer: Take away all privacy control from all users. Everything you’ve posted or uploaded becomes immediately available to the entire Internet, and you can’t delete any of it. This applies to users who have closed their accounts, which would be restored and made fully viewable. Disgruntled ex-customers forced back to the product form a core part of a horrible future.
Remember the widely reviled “Beacon” program, which posted a status update every time you bought anything online? Bring it back! And in addition to disclosing online purchases to your social network, also push the limits of data-gathering capabilities to share the most “interesting” nuggets from user Web-browsing and searching — how much time you waste at TMZ.com, how often you Google your ex, etc. And we all know that the bleeding edge of horrible involves linking real-world shopping data to online identity, so next time you load up on Hot Pockets at Kroger, or back issues of Hustler at the 7-11, your friends will hear about it.
Probably Facebook already has more detailed data than we realize, and may as well share it. Let’s say you spent 20 minutes lurking through all the photos in the profile of a co-worker you have a secret crush on. That co-worker will now be notified! If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about. And if you do have something to hide, we’d all like to know.
Lastly on this front, to address any confusion about NSA access to Facebook data: Facebook simply becomes a division of the NSA.
Those are some preliminary thoughts, but I’m sure we can do better — or, rather, worse. Feel free to add your own ideas for making Facebook more horrible. I know it sounds hard, but I’m sure it can be done!