Facebook and the lost art of conversation

It's hard to pin down exactly what it is I don't like about Facebook – mostly because the damn thing changes shape every two weeks – but Daniel Howells makes a good point about how it's lost its personal focus over time, and conversation is no longer at the heart of it:

When I started using Facebook, I loved the fact that all the content on it was about my friends. Very simply and quickly, I could discover what they were up to, what they planned to do, or what they thought about stuff. The kinds of conversations that I had on the site were akin to the kind of conversations I might have in a pub.

In a pub, you talk about things that affect you, other people, or about things. The discussions and dialog you have is intrinsic sharing – sharing and discussing things that are very personal to you.

What you wouldn’t do is turn up to the pub with a bunch of DVDs, maybe some magazines, yesterday’s newspaper, and your Xbox. You also probably wouldn’t be standing there listening to Spotify on your iPhone. That’d just be rude.You then wouldn’t start handing these items out to other random people in the pub, often in total silence.

The increasingly undefined purpose of Facebook as a network just makes me appreciate things like Path even more. On there, you post updates about you, and that's it. No games, no videos, no external links (with the exception of music you're listening to, nobody trying to sell anything or point you to something interesting (that's what twitter is good for). Just good old harmless "this is what I did today" – it's a nice environment.

(Unfortunately it's a pub that people may have heard of, but they're not entirely sure how to get to it, or where the entrance is, or whether it has that weird "new pub" smell inside.)

To extend Daniel's metaphor, Path is a comfy booth next to the fireplace in the pub with your mates, just having a nice sit down (and there's nothing better than a good sit down, is there?). Twitter is going for drinks after your favourite conference, where you meet lots of like-minded people who you find yourself wildly gesticulating at whilst trying to hold five conversations at once about ephemeral yet fascinating things.

And Facebook? It isn't a pub any more. Facebook is like being shouted at in a supermarket.