I’m reluctant about using Facebook. Recently I returned after a 5 year sabbatical. It seems about the same as it was when I left. But I had never really used Facebook groups before. So when a friend launched a group around a topic of interest to me, I joined enthusiastically. While watching the numbers grow quickly in the first few days, I realized what a difficult platform it is for having any kind of meaningful discussion.
On Facebook groups, the content scrolls by, eventually disappearing entirely, at least from the serious users’ perspective. Although comments are threaded to an extent, the depth is limited to 2 or 3 levels. After that, Facebook begins to automatically insert the name of the person being responded to into the comment but it doesn’t indent the comment or in any other way show where it fits into the hierarchy. At its best it’s confusing, and at its worst, it can lead to misunderstandings.
The technical solution for serious groups is a hosted forum where comments are threaded and the community leadership organizes and moderates the conversation. But the problem is that for some communities, that’s not where they “live” online. It’s Facebook or nothing.
Facebook has smart designers and engineers. Surely they see the problem that the user faces? The skeptic in me concludes that they profit by having people linger aimlessly on the site. The easier it is to find something, the briefer their experience. In other words, by making information harder to find, you end up bumping into stuff they want you to see by mental Brownian motion.
It’s easy to set up a Facebook group; but for users who want to see information organized in helpful ways, it’s a terrible experience. Very chaotic.