Facebook comments via email can really ruin a nice moment.
As I write this, my phone won’t stop vibrating. I’m receiving a relentless barrage of emails. Each one is a Comment to a Facebook Status Update:
“Omg!!!! Sooooo happy 4 u!!”
“:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)”
“We’re so excited!”
“I AM SOOOO PUMPED RITE NOW!!!”
I’m drowning in a river of well wishes, and it’s starting to piss me off. All this love is pouring through Facebook, but none of it is for me.
This morning, an old co-worker, I’ll call her Vicky, shared some exciting news on Facebook. I haven’t spoken to Vicky in years, but I commented on her status update. It’s one of the great powers of Facebook. In a small way I was able to immediately share in a personal moment that in the analog world I would not have heard about until years later.
But I’m not alone. Turns out Vicky has a lot of friends on Facebook. 385 friends, and almost all of them are also commenting. Every time someone else comments on Vicky’s update, I get an email notice from Facebook. By adding “Congratulations” to Vicky’s status update, I was boarding what I call “the comment train.” For the last few hours, I’ve been interrupted by dozens of e-mails with comments from people I’ve never met to a person I haven’t spoken to in years.
Here’s the horrible part. With each additional “Congratulations,” I get more cynical and more ornery. What started as, “I’m so happy for Vicky” has turned into “Oh… good for YOU!” “Congratulations INDEED.” “WE GET IT.” Then I get a case of "friend-envy." I'm comparing my friends list to Vicky's. I’m looking at my list and wondering why it’s only 261. How many of those 261 are really my friends? Suddenly I’m counting how many people wished me “Happy Birthday” on my Facebook wall last Saturday.
I’m starting to resent Vicky. It’s the digital version of being at a huge party and only knowing the host. After listening to long conversation that I'm not really a part of, I just want to get the hell out of the room. That’s NOT how I want my social media to work.
I’ve got to get off this comment train, and I need Facebook's help.
Facebook, I need to be able opt-out of an out of a comment thread. Yes, I could turn off all email notifications, but that would be fine-tuning my system with a sledgehammer. Please add a link to the bottom of each email:
"Stop receiving email notifications of comments to this status update."
I know you guys can do it in one of your all-night coding marathons. Don't do it for me. Do it for your continued survival. The Facebook experience is most powerful when it’s focused. When Facebook delivers me information I don’t want, it becomes spam. And if I start to ignore what Facebook is telling me, then the site itself is spam. Or worse; Myspace.
It may sound like I want to be less social, but it will actually make me more social. If you give me the ability to jump off a runaway comment train, I’ll comment more. I won’t second guess buying a ticket on another comment train. Which is one of the thing that I love about Facebook; it allows for the occasional “hit-and-run intimacy” that would be awkward in the real world.
This is the next lesson Facebook needs to learn about how we want to interact with each other online: moderation. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.