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TheStreet Open House

Have You Seen the People Facebook Thinks 'You May Know?'

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Is Facebook (FB) becoming Tinder? Or the now much more tame Craigslist "Erotic Services" category? Wait, they call them "therapeutic" now! 

For privacy concerns, I decided against screen capturing and publishing the "People You May Know" section from my mobile Facebook news feed on iOS. But, man, as I have clearly run out of people who I actually might even six degrees of Kevin Bacon know, the suggestions have become downright seedy. Shady. Suspect.

I have to wonder if Facebook is becoming a place for impostors of sorts to ... this is the only way I can say it ... cough, cough ... turn tricks.

This matters on several levels.

First, don't construe this as a knock against Facebook. As I note in my 2013 review/2014 prediction article, I called FB a $50 stock in December 2012. So I'm a believer.

I'm just concerned.

If I'm not merely an isolated case and other Facebook users are having this flavor of looker suggested as a friend, Facebook risks offending some people. Some people aren't going to go for people who could even possibly, by some stretch of the imagination, look like a call girl, Hooters' waitress or something equally as provocative.

This is a real issue for the company. 

Facebook could turn increasingly irrelevant even as it's trying to become more relevant.

Let's state it simply: I don't really want to "friend" people who I don't know. These suggested people are not even mutual friends of friends, I don't think! That's the irrelevant part. And this bit of irrelevancy lends support to something else I've been thinking about Facebook lately.

Facebook, so the story goes, wants to become your newspaper. It doesn't want Twitter (TWTR) to play this role. It, apparently, has been driving a lot of traffic to publishers lately. Yet, Facebook, reportedly, is tweaking out the algorithm that drives your newsfeed so it can deliver even more relevant content, presumably from these partners.

I don't think Facebook has the foggiest idea what it's doing.

But, the nuts and bolts tell me that Facebook should not try to compete with Twitter. I don't care what any social media analyst firm says, Twitter is best positioned to be the aggregated newspaper of record. Facebook is, and will remain, the place you go to see what your friends are up to. If it so happens that they're sharing fun or otherwise interesting news or a fluff story, great. If it's a video of their annoying 5-year old covering Born in the USA, so be it.

That's the beauty of Facebook. It provides the spontaneity of the unplanned social encounter virtually and at scale. You bump into people all of the time. Sometimes you want to run away. Other times you want to duck into a coffee shop and chat for an hour over two.

Facebook has something there. I'm not sure why it wants to run away from it to engage in some pissing contest with Twitter.

Can Facebook do -- and be good at -- multiple things? Of course it can, but right now it has a full plate. It should do what it does best rather than attempt to be a jack of all trades.

Facebook exists to create social connections. That's what we've been told. If how it's suggesting I might want to build out my network is any indication, that mission is breaking down. Once that happens, Facebook becomes limited and ultimately useless.

Forget about the publishers. Let Twitter work with them. That's their game. Facebook can solve the "problem" of serving more relevant and personalized content (all of these darn buzzwords!) by working to connect me with people who, even if I don't know them, tend to make me want to engage them on the basis of who they are, what they look like and the information they share.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in New York City

Rocco Pendola is a columnist for TheStreet. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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