According to Facebook, today the News Feed is comprised of about 50% « visual content. » What began as a spartan little text entry box is now a full-fledged multimedia monster, for better or worse. But the advent of Facebook’s new « bright beautiful stories » may just mean more visual detritus to brush away from the content we really want to see, assuming it’s out there at all.
Trying to get a screen capture of the new News Feed Photos page earlier today, I had to refresh about ten times before anything worthy of being highlighted bubbled up. But even then, the rest of the stuff on the page was such an eyesore, I just went with the Facebook PR team’s stock shot. My Photos tab (and the News Feed at large) remains a confusing mixture of Someecards and random images that people scoop up from around the Web and don’t attribute.
It’s just that in the example images, everything just looks so good. I mean, if all of my friends posted only high-res pictures of their amazing blue-skied skiing adventures, I wouldn’t be complaining.
The invasion of the meme might be partly to blame. I remember when memes hit Tumblr and then took off. I’d been blogging there since 2009. Back then I’d post original photos and original writing and the people I followed did the same. Then suddenly, one day it just flipped – Tumblr became a place for recycling jokes and reposting lolcats. I lost interest in it immediately and haven’t really blogged there since. Now that Facebook is dominated by image updates, the News Feed is a morass of recycled content – and again, I’m losing interest.
Instagram’s Unspoken Rule
Facebook may own Instagram, but the social photo sharing network has its own set of rules – many of them unspoken, selfies aside. Instagram made generating original content fun again. Sure, we’re just taking little snapshots and posting them in quasi-realtime, but that’s a hell of a lot more interesting than a retweet or a video gone viral. If anyone on my Instagram posts a screencap or a picture lifted from a different source, I unfollow them. Instagram is retraining people to populate and curate their own little photo portals – and even first-time photographers start developing their own visual voice. It’s no surprise that the most interesting images in my News Feed are all imported from Instagram.
Call me old fashioned. I like actual photos. I like text, too. I prefer user-generated content over clever Web-recycling. Remember when people used to blog? Now most of us just move content from one place to another. I don’t watch video content on the Web unless I’m absolutely convinced it will be worth my time – and if I have to sit through an auto-play YouTube ad first, forget it.
Content Other Other People Create
Chris Cox, Facebook’s VP of Product, summed it up this at Facebook’s big announcement Thursday morning: « Fundamentally we’re a container for content other people create. » But most Facebook users don’t create content, they just borrow it from someone else who probably borrowed it from someone else after it made the rounds on Tumblr a few months ago.
Maybe I’m just cynical. Or maybe there really is nothing new under the sun. But if you ask me, Facebook needs more content creators – and fewer diligent meme mules ferrying viral junk from point A to point B with their heads down.