I have never been an avid Facebook user. Quick posts and personal notes have never been my metier; my Twitter feed essentially acts as an RSS feed of my posts and a commenting system. But recently, I’ve come to realize that the secret to Facebook is content.
Specifically, Facebook is the first medium that provides constant, personalized, interactive content. Any time day or night, I can visit Facebook and find new stuff to read.
Consider the evolution of content:
Print: Periodic, broadcast, passive. While I remember the excitement of waiting for the latest issue of The Atlantic, it was an excitement that came once a month, not all of the articles interested me, and I had no one to talk with about it.
Website: Sporadic, broadcast, passive. Remember having to check a website for new content? It’s not far-fetched. I still check ESPN.com this way (though websites have since added commenting).
Blog: Push, narrowcast, interactive. Blogs succeeded because they were so much more focused and interactive than the MSM. But the crushing weight of an RSS backlog makes this a love/hate relationship.
Facebook is a fiendishly addictive content engine. It’s so ubiquitous that my friends generate a constant stream of content. And because it uses a symmetrical follow system (unlike Twitter’s 1-way system) all the content is at least somewhat relevant, in that it comes from a personal friend. Finally, the universal commenting system both makes that content interactive *and* viral, as I get drawn into comments on content from friends-of-friends.
I always check Facebook because I don’t want to commit to the time and intellectual effort of reading blogs and articles, yet I find myself still reading 20 minutes later (which, by the way, is plenty of time to read a thought-provoking piece).
I admire the machine, and I love how it helps me stay in touch with friends, but I can’t help wishing that the crack had more nutrients.