I hate Facebook, for many reasons (and I am not using the word lightly). I think it’s despicable how Facebook presents you with a choice between economic exploitation and social connection, and I think it speaks to a deep erosion of what is good in American society: there are fewer and fewer spaces for human existence without the omnipresent hum of monetization, even exploitation. I like what I’ve seen of social networking tools beyond Facebook (esp. Friendica), and I’m looking forward to using them more.
That being said, I think Facebook feels more like a community than it did a couple of years ago (at least for the people I know). There’s a group of people I know will be on Facebook on a regular basis; I can message them or post something with them in mind and know they’ll probably see it.
I’m sure there are technical changes that have imperceptibly adjusted the Facebook experience, and it probably helps that Facebook has changed from something novel and stylish to something functional. But in the end, I think it’s less that the technology has changed than that people have changed the way they use it. When Facebook started, there was a certain pressure to burnish one’s reputation, to be aspirational in choosing what to post. Now, Facebook has so many people at different ages that aspirational posts are less salient than they used to be: a stylish post might just as easily receive a comment from your mom or brother as a carefully curated set of likes (and it’s kind of delightful to see this sort of misfire in Facebook posting). Facebook has become a community space in some way, a neighborhood bar rather than a trendy wine bar (or whatever is trendy: no fucking idea). And as numerous are its problems, and as hateful I find its venality, it’s hard for me not to see something valuable in the way we use Facebook now.