Need to keep in touch? Just use Facebook

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Over the past week, Facebook’s new redesign has sparked conversation and even debate about the direction of the popular social networking site that boasts over 750 million unique accounts. With the emergence of a new rival in Google Plus (styled ‘Google+’), it seems that Mark Zuckerberg and company have decided that new features are in order to boost the site’s appeal and stave off the competition.

The changes to Facebook’s layout and functionality are so radical that “NBC News Nightly” (and several other outlets) even ran a thirty second spot a few nights ago on how the changes to Facebook’s design had caused an Internet uproar.

Perhaps the real story here isn’t that Facebook is changing with the times. It is rather, that people care so much that they post YouTube videos and that major news networks would give the story equal airtime with discussions about presidential hopefuls and falling satellites that might or might not hit a populated area in the United States. The recent (and almost universally negative) reception to Facebook’s redesign begs the question: why is something like this such a huge part of our lives?

Part of Facebook’s new functionality is the introduction of a new slide bar on the right, just above where a person’s online friends are usually listed. This slider acts as a news feed where recent activity related to friends’ posts or uploaded pictures appears in real time, replacing the old pop-ups that would appear in the bottom left part of the screen whenever new posts were made. Another new aspect of the site is the addition of different classifications of friends, including ‘acquaintances’ and ‘close friends.’ Another added feature is the ability for users to group their friends into separate news feeds to make it ‘easier’ to keep track of everyone.

These new features have one thread in common, which might be contributing to the overall negative reception being given to their additions. They force users to put even more of their ‘real lives’ onto Facebook than they already have. While some people may not think twice about making Facebook a reflection of their lives, others use the site as a way to keep in touch with friends, without the hassles and stresses of ‘real life.’ Forcing users to post even more material about their day-to-day endeavors may only turn potential users away from the social networking giant, instead of bringing more people into the fold.

The main reason why Facebook surpassed its cultural predecessor, MySpace, a few years ago, was because of the site’s simplicity. Zuckerberg was able to create a network that was both easy to use, and fun to be on. With the rapid replacement of the site’s interface, both of those features may have just been thrown out the window.

With the addition of the new interactive and in-depth features, Facebook seems like it is trying to become people’s reality, instead of just being a reflection of it.

And that might be the scariest ‘feature’ of all.