Nearly a decade ago I jumped on the Facebook bandwagon when it rolled into my university, before it became a phenomenon everyone and their uncle knew about. I was an early adopter of the iPhone, I play video games online, and I Tweet on a regular basis. But now, days before I turn 30, I feel like I'm becoming a curmudgeon in the world of social media and Internet investing. I can't keep up anymore with the latest fad, and I feel like I'm falling behind the times. Maybe this is what old age feels like. Maybe I'm out of touch. The thing is, I couldn't care less.
I began slowly recognizing my aversion to Internet companies when intrusive, information-overloading products from Facebook, Zynga (Nasdaq: ZNGA ) , and LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD ) began creeping their way into my world. Facebook and LinkedIn were cool at first, but I have a good job, so I'm not sure how LinkedIn is going to help me anymore, and I've decided I don't need to know what people from high school are up to.
I heard the rage about FarmVille and decided to try it before Zynga's IPO, thinking I might write about the stock from time to time. But FarmVille wants to post on my wall and know who my friends are, what interests me, and who I have a crush on (wait -- I'm not even sure about the last one).
Then came the links to articles I couldn't read unless I signed my firstborn over to the app developer and Facebook.
The last straw for me was Pinterest. I saw Pinterests popping up on my Facebook wall and had to investigate the newest phenomenon. Since I still know a few "cool kids," I think I could get an invite to this "exclusive" club, but I don't want one. I don't want to register via Facebook Connect or Twitter, bombarding my poor friends and followers with Pinterests of mine. I like to golf, ski, and drink a good beer. If you need to know more, call me on my telephone, or we can talk in person.
I've seen this movie before
There are ebbs and flows in anything. Social media is all the rage right now because of the success Facebook and Twitter are having, but it won't last forever. There just isn't enough room for 100 social sites. And few are generating enough revenue to make investing in them worthwhile.
Remember that Internet bubble that popped, leaving IPO carnage all over the stock market in the early 2000s? Groupon (Nasdaq: GRPN ) , Yelp (NYSE: YELP ) , Pandora (NYSE: P ) , Zynga, and LinkedIn look far too similar to these failures to warrant my attention for long, much less my investment. Groupon's business model has already proven easily copied, and I'm not convinced that Pandora can scale up a growing customer base to produce big profits even in the long run. With Yelp, it's nice to read reviews, but there are plenty of other places to find them. Even Facebook, as popular as it is, falls in the same boat. Or maybe I'm out of touch.
Why I'm betting against Facebook
The biggest thing that may please or appall some of my fellow Fools is that I plan to short the upcoming Facebook IPO. No matter how popular Facebook is right now, history just isn't on its side. AOL used to be the place to talk with friends online. Then it became MySpace, and now it's Facebook. But Facebook is allowing more private information to leak out, and games like Zynga's, which are where Facebook makes money, are starting to annoy users.
It will start with curmudgeons like me deciding that Facebook just doesn't add any value to our lives. Then the kids will get tired of distant aunts and uncles posting on their walls and move on to something new -- maybe a network where grandma can't see your every move. Pretty soon, Facebook will become that thing we used to do, just like MySpace and instant messaging. Remember those? They were around not so long ago.
Am I getting wiser or simply older?
I'm not sure if my newfound aversion to social media is the result of my becoming older and out of touch, my realization that personal interactions are more important, or a trend among those of us who used to be early adopters.
Maybe it's just a sign that I don't fall for investment fads anymore. I want a solid business with revenue, profits, and a market that's growing. Whatever it is, I'm comfortable becoming an investing curmudgeon like those who missed out on the first Internet bubble. Hopefully I can miss out on some explosive IPOs and be left with a solid business, rather than a worthless ownership share in a has-been Internet stock, just like last time.
Are you going to jump on the Facebook bandwagon or jump off like me? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.