How Facebook tries (and lies) a little too hard

Facebook is so intent at getting users to log on more often that, in my case at least, it offers what seems like patent deception as an inducement.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I seem to frustrate Facebook.

With increasing regularity, the site e-mails me to tell me I am missing out on notifications.

I have no idea what these notifications are. So, given that I don't use Facebook very much at all, I don't bother trying to find out.

However, yesterday, my obstinate inactivity seems to have annoyed Facebook beyond reason. For I received an even more detailed e-mail.

The subject line read: "Czeslaw, you have 2 photo tags, 2 pokes and 5 friend requests." (Yes, Czeslaw is my middle name. It's the one I used when I signed on to Facebook in what seems like the last century.)

The e-mail read: "A lot has happened on Facebook since you last logged in. Here are some notifications you've missed from your friends."

I am, of course, ashamed that I haven't logged into Facebook lately. But, in all honesty, I seem generally able to live without it. If I want to talk to friends, I generally text or e-mail. However, this latest tease was deeply tempting.

For it said quite clearly that I had "2 photo tags, 2 pokes and 5 friend requests."

In order to be even more helpful, I could click on the each of these exciting notifications. The links, hopefully, would take me to the sources of these exciting photo tags, pokes, and friend requests. Who could these people be? Why had I suddenly moved them to such action?

Had ex-lovers suddenly seen the errors of their ways? Had unknown beauties been observing me from afar and couldn't hold themselves in any longer?

Not quite.

On clicking on each link, I received precisely no photo tags, pokes, or friend requests.

Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Instead, whichever one of these inducements I clicked on, I was sent me to the very same page. This page was headlined "Find friends from different parts of your life."

This was very interesting, as the accompanying list of "friends" included precisely no people I knew. No one.

I had no idea who any of them were, other than -- on closer examination -- realizing that they were all friends of people who are my Facebook friends (and therefore not necessarily even friends of friends.)

So the promise of a sudden surge of photo tagging, poking, and friend requesting revealed nothing. Oh, except for Facebook's desperate need for me to become a more active member of its global community -- so that the company could target some finer, more communal ads in my direction.

I know that Facebook needs to have as many people doing as many things for as many hours as possible on its site.

However, blatant deception doesn't seem like the deepest way to build a brand.

I have contacted Facebook to see if the company can explain, justify, or even patronize me with an explanation and will update when I get one.

However, does the company really think that people will always succumb to such bait-and-switch teases? Might it not imagine that annoyance leads to, um, further inactivity?

Oh, well. I suppose you have to try and drive the share price up somehow.