Politics, Loser 'Friends' Could Bring Facebook's Death

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I'm on record as saying Facebook (FB) will die before Twitter.

At the same time, I'm bullish. Seems contradictory, but it's not.

Despite its relative weaknesses, Facebook has life left. When mobile revenue at the company explodes -- and it will -- look out. Plus, the forthcoming Facebook Gifts initiative should help drive mobile as well as overall revenue.

Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have their stuff together. Don't underestimate them. In the near term, there's plenty to get excited about.

That said, they do not have power over the "content" their users share. Twitter doesn't either, but, for myriad reasons, the Twitter platform facilitates useful and clever submissions of relative quality.

There's a sense that the inmates run the asylum on your Facebook feed. Of course, you could block annoying people, but do you really want to be bothered by that?

There's a magnetic force Facebook exerts that keeps me coming back. But, for how long?

On Twitter, you do not have what amounts to this unnatural obligation to follow your "friends." Instead, you actively seek out the best and the brightest. That might be a media source or some random human who routinely makes magic or, at the very least, doesn't make a fool of his or herself, in 140 characters or less.

On Twitter, you rarely have sympathy follows like you do on Facebook. I estimate I friended about 10% to 20% of the people I am "friends" with on Facebook because I didn't want to make anybody feel bad.

You can get by on Twitter by simply not following the kid who picked his nose and ate it in grade school; that doesn't fly on Facebook. When I disregard a friend request on Facebook, the telephone tree in Niagara Falls, NY, activates. Immediately, I get a call from my mother reprimanding me for not connecting with some kid I apparently sat next to in fourth grade.

On Twitter, you can "unfollow" most people or entities and nobody feels bad. It's nothing personal. Over the last week or two, I have unfollowed a couple hundred people. I have no choice if I want to keep my feed tidy, useful and productive as it relates to my work and primary interests.

If I still lived at home, it would probably be a house rule -- you cannot unfriend anybody from your childhood. It's just bad form.

I admit. It's all petty. However, this dynamic will cause Facebook to run its course at some point after the initial mobile explosion. I'm not sure how much longer humanity can handle the blend of ignorance and mindless time killing that comes across that site.

Case in point.

I will spare this person the embarrassment of a blown identity, but somebody I used to know and became "friends" with on Facebook posted this the other day:
Wtf does wegmans have so many foreigners shopping here today? But the better question, why the hell are they using food stamps while i pay cash? Guess i pay for their expletive too.

And that's a sample of the more tame stuff from my conservative Facebook "friends." My wife's feed -- she hails from the ultra-conservative Central Valley of California -- is even worse.

If you publicly state some of the things these nut jobs post in a place like San Francisco or parts of Los Angeles, you'll be embarrassed right out of the room. Frankly, I'm not sure why "we" should make "you" feel welcome. But, on Facebook, we're supposed to tolerate this tripe?

Don't get me wrong. I love a good joke -- politically incorrect, off color, dark or dealing with race/ethnicity. I even relish opposing political points of view.

I have a buddy, in "real life" and on Facebook, who we'll call "Waz." Waz posts stuff that ticks me off. But, I quickly retreat -- even if we spar -- because I know he's doing it for partly comedic purposes.

Waz is a gentle soul. A smart guy. He does good work. He has just always been funny. The class clown in a good sort of way.

I don't think we need to worry about him organizing a Hitler youth rally, stoning "Welfare mothers" or bullying gay co-workers at the company Christmas party.

You likely experience this as well. Certainly, conservatives will turn my argument against me. But that's not the point. It's less about politics and more about Facebook's long-term viability.

Mark Zuckerberg likes to say he just wants to make the world more connected. Right. And both Bush and Obama were going to "unite" us, not divide us. Zuck wants us to be able to share anything and everything, all of the time, no matter where we are or what platform we're using.

He leaves out one important point: Facebook is built around the premise that we'll be able to put up with each other's crap, when we really don't have to, for eternity.

Downside of Upgrades

I agree with one of the lines bears throw out when they dog Facebook; from an aesthetic standpoint, it changes too frequently. Twitter rarely does.

Twitter got the platform right the first time. It has only made minor tweaks here and there along the way. Meantime, Facebook has gone through several wholesale transformations on the desktop and mobile.

Where Twitter evolved -- morphing into the modern day version of the newspaper -- Facebook did not.

It needs to become a conduit for something other than the inane ramblings of political extremists, parents who think their overindulged kids are way too cute and virtual chain letters.

I hate to endorse the standard line: Facebook is the next MySpace. However, other than the fact that it's coming into its own alongside the mobile revolution, lots of similarities do exist.

Like Facebook, MySpace made lots of cosmetic changes. It's last-ditch effort to become a destination for music and entertainment hasn't quite caught on.

Zuckerberg better have another epic idea or two up his sleeve. "Friending" random people from the past likely will not stand the test of time.

At the time of publication, the author was long FB.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Rocco Pendola is a private investor with nearly 20 years experience in various forms of media, ranging from radio to print. His work has appeared in academic journals as well as dozens of online and offline publications. He uses his broad experience to help inform his coverage of the stock market, primarily in the technology, Internet and new media spaces. He has taken a long-term approach to investing, focusing on dividend-paying stocks, since he opened his first account as a teenager. Pendola, 37, is based in Santa Monica, Calif., where he lives with his wife and child.

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