Blog Post

Why do we have Facebook Fatigue?

Facebook, one has to admit is a great time sink. Given how much you have to do to just manage your Facebook life, it is hardly a surprise; some organizations are taking a draconian approach to them. Jason Calacanis has declared Facebook bankruptcy. What is prompting such extreme reactions?

Bankruptcies often come as a result of excess and poor management. That sadly seems to be the case, for those who are getting fed up with Facebook. And the truth of the matter is that we are to blame.

We are not using the privacy settings of Facebook, and are too polite to say no to invitations from people who want to friend us. No wonder, the social environment is starting to resemble a crowded nightclub. (You go to clubs to be seen, not talk.)

However, if you treat Facebook more like a dinner gathering, inviting only the closest friends and family, it can be a rather efficient way of staying in touch.

What we need is something more intimate, more private. It’s not about the number of friends, but it’s about connection. (My previous post about Privacy also touches on some of these issues.)

Lets put it another way: do you go hang with hundreds of people, accept every invitation for coffee or try out everything that is new in your real world? Do you invite everyone you meet to your house for dinner? So why would you do that in Facebook?

The second problem is that we are treating Facebook as a tool for communication (my inbox on FB is filled with invites for conferences and other junk, just like my email inbox) when we should be treating it as a tool for real time interactions. RTI tools are those that save time and yet let us remain connected to those who matter the most.

Facebook if used properly, in one quick glance can tells us what our friends are doing, new photos, who has broken up, and who needs a little wink and a smile. Instead we are spending time declining invitations from random strangers, or trying to deal with events that we are unlikely to attend anyway.

In the euphoria around Facebook, many of us (and perhaps Mark Zuckerberg as well) forgot the real premise (and promise) of Facebook. In their overarching ambition to become a Microsoft like entity, Zuckerberg & Co. forgot that what makes them great is not the apps, but the ability to create a private, fun, controlled and easy to use environment. Then bankruptcy or bans won’t even be an issue.

Tip: The best way to ensure the fidelity of your social network is by taking a look at the names and numbers in your mobile phone’s address book. It kind of tells you who matters the most to you!

93 Responses to “Why do we have Facebook Fatigue?”

  1. Haggie

    I think that Facebook’s new plan to be the new Microsoft Passport for Web 2.0 sites is f’ing hilarious. Yeah, that idea is worth BILLIONS.

    Facebook Fatigue? How about Facebook Failure?

    Facebook is headed for the web 2.0 junk heap.

  2. Ahem..
    Why do you need Facebook? I had a LinkedIn profile for a year, and had to email them to get it removed 4 months ago because I haven’t found any use for it…
    Is FaceBook more helpful?

  3. “Lets put it another way: do you go hang with hundreds of people, accept every invitation for coffee or try out everything that is new in your real world? Do you invite everyone you meet to your house for dinner? So why would you do that in Facebook?”

    Just playing devil’s advocate here, since I can’t claim I do this myself, but I imagine a lot of people become very social on social sites precisely because they don’t do that in the real world.

  4. Remember when this blog was about at least somewhat breaking and exciting technology news , now I could pull up a pre-teen’s diary from an affluent neighborhood and I’m not sure if I could tell much of a difference.

    All these “mogul” blogs are becoming like this , getting further and further from the real news instead asking questions like do I have too many friends.

    Its depressing.

  5. This is where the “how do you know this person?” can play a part. But putting your contacts into segments, Facebook should allow you to allocate certain behaviours per group. I know this already works for feeds and what you can see of other people. It should probably also have to work for messaging.

    Then again, maybe you, Calacanis, Scoble, etc. are just freaks and making more noise about something that bothers freaks much more than the average Joe. No offence intended.

    If the phrase “garbage in, garbage out” means anything, I suggest using that policy in Facebook as well.

  6. It seems to me that most people are trying to assess FB on the basis of it only being a consumer oriented network platform whereas it appears to hold promise as a business tool. With a business tool, you want your network to be invite only or private and some companies have done exactly that.

    The area I see as most problematic is in the area of application proliferation. That causes fatigue because it’s really hard to keep up. Maybe that’s today’s reality but from a business perspective, it is highly destabilizing.

    I talk about this at (among other things) which I see as connected.

  7. This problem effects 0.0001% of the population. Not a big deal. Spend 10 minutes a day on FB…you’ll be fine. You were fine before it came into existence. It is not the be all, end all only thing in the world. Hell…you can ignore it for the rest of your life and I’ll bet that your life won’t be any different…which is the same that could be said for every other website on this planet. Go do your job, spend time with your family and friends, go our for a hike, take a vacation. You’ll be quite fine.

  8. Thanks for the great post! I agree with what you say about only accepting friends who actually matter to you.

    I think that Scoble and others go nuts with these social apps and add way to many friends. For me, I have nine facebook friends. Since none of my real life friends actually use facebook, I don’t have people whom I know in real life on facebook (obvious). But I don’t just add people randomly; I add people that are important for a reason. For instance, I am friends with Sridhar Vembu and Raju Vegesna and others of Zoho; while I don’t know them in real life, I do get a lot of neat info from Raju; I think that this is one way where facebook is useful, where a company can make a human presence with their customers.

  9. Bipin Kulkarni

    Om, thanks for an insightful blog. I think Social Networking will continue to have its place in the ecosystem, but individuals who want strong focus in verticals will start coming together in purposeful, focused communities that are selective in terms of membership and give members the most value for their time. The appeal of such communities does not come through making friends or networking with strangers, but through dynamic useful content along verticals, relentless focus, collaboration amongst members and strong relationships based on shared aspirations. There have been recent articles around how organizations have started to out ban on employees using Facebook at work. With the opening up of its platform, does Facebook run the danger and issues that MySpace is facing? Thanks again for bringing such issues to the forefront.

  10. Robert Dewey

    This is what I love about GigaOm Blog – you respond personally to most of the comments. Wish I could say the same for some of those who have relatively small audiences yet can’t interact with the two or three commenters :-/

  11. Colin,

    Hey I have heard people who are not in media or tech, talk about the same issues. I manage FB when I have time not the other way around. But thanks for your comment – point well taken.

  12. Actually, Robert, I have not declared bankruptcy just yet. I just use FB when i have time, and not being addicted to it. I think the big issue is – these tools are made to serve us, not us to serve these tools/services.

  13. MarxistMango,

    Actually the issue is not of inviting other folks, but mostly getting invitations from others, event invites and what not. I think the problem is not unique to me, or Jason, but even others have said the same.

  14. David,

    thanks for your comment. I have to agree with you – if you keep the network controlled, it is actually a few minutes a day that you spend on facebook. i have a separate network for family/friends who have nothing to do with my tech life, and we are now using the FB to basically staying in touch and updated on each other.

  15. Why does it matter? Seriously? Why do pepole feel the need to publicly declare email/facebook bankruptcy?

    If I friend someone and they don’t reply, I don’t really worry about it. If they friend me later, then sweet.

    This way, friends are set up by mutual agreement, and any outstanding requests can be considered irrelevant.

  16. I couldn’t agree more. As a university aged person, I felt like this last year. That’s when I started saying no to every Tom, Dick and Marry who wanted to ad me to Facebook. I only add real friends and professional contacts. Everyone else can get my rejection notice.

    People need to learn to take back their life and control it or else they are only going to dig deeper into their whole.

  17. Om,

    You are the bomb. But I have to disagree with your assessment of Facebook.

    I am not a Facebook fanboy mind you — I just think people who complain about Facebook being a social-whore-brothel are complaining about something that is easily correctable.

    If you want Facebook to be an intimate collection of friends then don’t invite other peeps. Don’t add the Super Wall application. Don’t add the Vampire or Zombie games. When someone asks you to join the Britney-Spears-Hillary-Duff-Lindsay-Lohan Group of Teenage Misfits simply “decline”.

    Like many things in life Facebook is what you make it. If you want to be an attention whore then add everyone who spams you .. if you want to keep a small social circle then be a little more selective in who you choose to add.

    Problem solved.


    As for Calcanius claiming “Facebook Bankruptcy” — this is pure tomfoolery. Personally his blog about this issue reads like an entry that is desperately trying to coin a new phrase.

  18. I agree, for the most part. A friend asked me to join, as he had set up a meeting page for a few of us who are trying to start up a local LUG. I’ve followed the philosophy of adding only those who I already know and want to be in touch with as friends. I go for quality over quantity as well. Otherwise, its not a useful medium for me.

  19. Robert Dewey

    I finally joined Facebook after getting several invitations from people that I’ve only corresponded with a couple times – most likely because I was in their address book.

    I uploaded my address book and sent out about 100 invitations… so far, only 30 of them have actually added me. The ones to add me the quickest are those with the fewest friends (i.e. less content to manage).

    You were on my contact list, Om, but I suspect that you’re going through bankruptcy right now :)

  20. peter78

    You and Calacanis have similar complains and I can’t help but feel that it is because you two are a rare breed: tech blogger media types. Even Scoble has admitted to being this. I’m sure you guys get way more invites/notifications/friend requests than your average Joe.

    I work in Silicon Valley at a Web 2.0 company and have many friends on Facebook but do not have your problem. I don’t feel overwhelmed with Facebook, it doesn’t take daily tasks to keep my profile in order and I’m not being spammed with app/friend requests.

    I do have to say, though, that I’ve been pretty selective about who I add as a friend and more recently have been opening my network up a bit.

    I don’t think Facebook has gotten anything wrong.

    My suggestion to you is this: create 2 different profiles. Have 1 for your media persona which you use for blogging/media purposes. Create another private one you keep where you only add family and close friends and a select few colleagues. You’ll have a much better time with your latter profile. Trust me.

  21. Do you think it’s simply because Facebook works in the college environment for which it was designed, but not in the broader world?

    College is generally about broadening both one’s horizons and one’s circle of friends. Post-college, most of us have an established circle of friends, and plenty of ways of communicating with them. Almost by virtue of its design, Facebook is about the fleeting and the superficial, so why are we surprised when it descends further into meaningless, immature inanity?

    On top of all of these grumpy reservations I’ve yet to see a compelling case for how Facebook offers any unique value when it comes to business communications

  22. I think you media pundits are forgetting that most of us don’t have 4,000 people wanting to become our friends, and we don’t seem to have invitations to trendy events flooding our inboxes.

    For us, Facebook seems to work just fine.

    I have a feeling that Zuckerberg’s intended audience was not the 10 people out there who are geek media moguls like you, Calacanis and Scoble.

  23. I like Facebook and haven’t had these bankruptcy issues. I use it for perhaps 5-20 minutes once every several days. Its not a big time commitment and as you said, allows me to keep up with others.

  24. Or, you can just accept people you think of as friends, or whom you like as friends.

    There’s no reason you should or have to accept every invitation. I have invites sitting there right now that are going to continue to sit there.

    Same with LinkedIn.

    The problem isn’t that there’s a bankruptcy. The problem is that people don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. We could probably all take a lesson from ClubPenguin – where you can see kids literally turn their backs on people that don’t interest them.