Imagine a social network full of your best friends. Not just the early adopters, internet randoms, or high school friends that you don't care about—but a place with people that you actually like.
You know, the ones you text, or see in person. Maybe a couple of your co-workers, a few people you have a crush on, and a Kardashian or two thrown in for good measure. A brand or your favorite news account, if you're into that. No exes, no family members, no annoying “friends” who won't stop posting photos of their baby, no creeps stalking you and liking every photo you post.
Sound too good to be true? It probably is. But stay with me here: in this imaginary utopia of the internet, your friends would really spend time here. You don't have to twist their arms to use it, they understand how it works, and they like it. They share what they’re doing in their life, a new song they like, or an article that you genuinely find interesting. You interact with each other online just like you would in real life, without the fabricated bullshit (or maybe just less bullshit).
You check in at that hip new restaurant opening and tag all the friends you’re with, so all your other hip friends can see it (remember, no losers here). After commenting about how you all miss each other so much, you decide to go out together this weekend for Ladies Night/Bro Down. You create an event, invite everyone, and the people who said they were attending actually attend, because they are your Real Friends.
The photos from that night? No need to hide them away in your phone forever, or limit their exposure to a single over-filtered selfie of yourself before you got wasted and made out with that friend of the DJ. Upload a few of you all in the club doing shots and wake up in the morning hungover—but without regret because, well, your boss is never going to see them here.
Chat with your group privately to try to figure out what happened last night; at the same time receive a message from that friend of the DJ, send him a blushing emoji in reply. Keep the conversation going, scroll through photo albums from your other friends’ weekends, and never leave the screen of whatever device you’re on.
You may not like what I have to say, but here it is: this network already exists. Something that almost all your friends are on, something you all know how to use, and something you probably threaten to quit on a regular basis: Facebook.
I realized that I have been using Facebook all wrong. Any social network—Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, whatever—is only as awesome as the people you’re following. If you’re following boring people, or annoying people, or people you just couldn’t give a shit about, why would you want to log in?
Likewise, you are also affected by those in your network. If you know that your co-workers and family members will see everything you post, you’re probably going to curate or censor your content accordingly. A natural tendency would be to gravitate away from where your entire network is hanging out online and move somewhere where just the awesome people are. User demographics are shifting significantly, with teens moving away from Facebook and towards other networks their parents have never heard of, like Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat.
But the thing is, Facebook has the potential to be the best social network for genuinely interacting with your Real Friends. The only problem is that your Facebook friends are, well, not really your friends. Our newsfeeds are often full of content that we simply don’t care about seeing. Sure, you could go and delete everyone except a handful of people, but where’s the fun in that? Admit it,you do love the ability to creep on whoever you want. Plus, your mom would probably get mad if you unfriended her.
It’s important to remember that for a lot of people, social media is Facebook. Maybe they tweet once a week, or they’ll post a picture of their feet on Instagram now and again, but they check Facebook every day. Facebook is the social media lowest common denominator: however it is you know someone, chances are they have a Facebook profile.
But just because it’s the lowest common denominator doesn’t mean it has to be awful. I’ve been using Facebook all wrong, and I’m going to try and change it. Why? Because Facebook is doing some really cool shit. Call me idealistic, but I want to create my social media utopia. I like having my separate communities on Twitter and Tumblr, but I also want a place where I can share something and have everyone that really matters to me see it and comment in one place—including those Friday night photos.