For about the past month, I've been spare with my check-ins to Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). Instead of spending at least an hour per day using the social network, now I rarely check in for more than 10-15 minutes per day.
Ads and sponsored stories aren't driving me away. (I've found them to be unobtrusive for the most part.) Instead, what I've found is that I can't be myself without some serious effort.
Why? Because Facebook, like LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD.DL), is a blunt instrument. So many use it as a platform to distribute ideas (or, frankly, rants) to a wide audience in an act of digital catharsis. Name the issue and you'll find Facebook friends of various firing off missives into the ether in search of nodding heads. It's exhausting.
Worse, it makes me fearful. I'm afraid that no matter what I say, at least a small number of friends in my diverse network will judge me for it. It's easier to say nothing, or to simply lurk and click the occasional "like" for the updates that make me smile.
If I'm less careful with LinkedIn it's because there's only so much that makes sense to share with my professional network. Etiquette comes more naturally in a business setting. Facebook, by contrast, is a free-for-all.
Here's why this matters to me as an investor: Facebook's valuation is at least partially predicated on the notion that we're spending more time on the social network than we do using alternatives. I wonder if the dynamic is changing.
So am I less bullish about the business? No, not at all. Even nonsense -- and there's plenty of it, to be sure -- feeds Facebook's database. The act of learning what matters to me as a user, and what doesn't, increases the social network's value to me, to my friends, and to investors. More data makes Facebook smarter. How CEO Mark Zuckerberg acts on the information for building tools and products is what matters.
In the meantime, I'd like to see Facebook take a page from Google, whose Google Plus network I've come to use much more because of how easy it is to control. I'm never afraid to share on Google Plus because I have 100% control over who sees what.