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Exploring Our Love-Hate Relationship with Facebook

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This just in: Facebook gets an “F” in customer satisfaction. Yes, in a survey released this month, the American Customer Satisfaction Index reports that Facebook has scored a surprisingly low 64 points out of a possible 100. “This puts Facebook in the bottom 5 per cent of all measured private-sector companies, and in the same range as airlines and cable companies, two perennially low-scoring industries with terrible customer satisfaction,” reports the ACSI. The site has even lower satisfaction than IRS e-filers. Ouch.

How can this be? How can the most visited site on the Internet also be among the most despised?

The complaints against Facebook are familiar. There’s the well-founded privacy concerns, the confusing and repeated changes to the interface, the intrusive advertising and silly games. But these foibles amount to the quirky yet sometimes annoying traits of a creature we otherwise love. Facebook is like a beloved puppy that decides to munch on your new sandals for lunch, if you will. Facebook is the husband with a tendency to leave his sweaty gym socks on the bathroom floor. While these are not among our favorite traits, they aren’t enough to make us abandon puppy, hubby or social network for good.

Facebook has become an indispensible “social utility” to many people (approximately 500 million). A great achievement for Facebook but it’s hard to unconditionally love an entity that large and powerful. This is why the recent backlash is predictable, just as backlash is predictable against any “utility” of Facebook’s size. Perhaps the results of the ACSI survey only reinforce that fact that Facebook has become a permanent and essential part of life, just like cable TV and airline travel.

And while a “social utility” like Facebook clearly isn’t as important as say, the fresh water supply, it is a practical, efficient way to track down and connect with family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and the like. Something this universally useful is not going to go away quickly, if ever, despite complaints about unsympathetic changes to privacy and user interface. Note the recent failure of Quit Facebook Day.

One could argue that Facebook has transcended “social media” and is now simply a regular, everyday part of life for people young and old, man and woman. It is for this reason that Facebook finds itself in the same boat as airlines, cable companies and the IRS, and why the (albeit sometimes tumultuous) relationship between Facebook and its users will continue to endure.

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