Facebook had a disastrous IPO on May 22, 2012, fraught with greed, incompetence, and miscalculation. But I wonder if what Facebook should really worry about is not its stock valuation, but its long-term efficacy.
In truth I think Facebook (and, to a lesser extent, its cousin Twitter) is mostly a monumental time waster. To my mind, paraphrasing Gertrude Stein, “there is no there there.” It would not surprise me to see Facebook do a slow fade over the next decade, despite its over 900 million user base.
That said, Facebook is cool. Mark Zuckerberg in his hoody is cool. He is even mentioned in the same breath with Steve Jobs. For the life of me, I don’t understand why. Despite last Tuesday’s $17 billion dollar windfall, Facebook seems to have little value in the real world. Facebook produces no product, beyond its facilitation of sharing the most superficial and trivial aspects of its users lives. It’s just a social media site. I can easily see it being supplanted by an even cooler time-wasting social media sharing site, perhaps one less superficial, chimerical, and vaprous. Unlike LinkedIn, Google, and even YouTube which have monetizable and clear business usages, Facebook seems silly.
That said, I do have a Facebook page. (The last time I looked I had all of 11 “friends,” one of whom I do not know. I never use it as an entrepreneur, though this blog does get reposted on it.)
Rich Lowry wrote an amusing piece about Facebook last week entitled The Time Wasting Network. (National Review Online-5/18/12) He says, “Facebook is the world’s foremost purveyor of information you shouldn’t care about. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is to uselessness what Henry Ford was to the automobile.” Mean, but apt. Lowry goes on to quote the T.S. Eliot line “distracted from distraction by distraction” as describing the addictive cultural appeal of social media in general and Facebook in particular.
So what does this cogitation on Facebook have to say to the practical entrepreneur?
Well, just this. The greatest capital asset of the entrepreneur is simply his or her time. Most of us cannot afford to be distracted by the transient, the onanistic, or the ROI inefficient. While Facebook can facilitate and help organize social networking and various activities, do you really want to know about my great ham sandwich over lunch, see my cute dog taking a dump, or admire my daughter’s new pink braces? I guess Facebook’s 900 million subscribers do. But business decisions must be made by each of us about where to place our own precious human capital (ourselves.)
Time use is becoming a more and more crucial factor as technology expands exponentially and apps proliferate. There is sometimes a lemming-like hunger to follow the crowd into each new (or old) genius app just so our firms can project a “cutting edge” image. But what is cool and what is useful are not necessarily the same in my experience.
(If you want to read more on the subject of time management and business try scrolling back in Making Rain to March 20.)
Entrepreneur and inventor Benjamin Franklin said, “If time be of all things most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.”
Amen, Brother Ben. Thank you.