Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why do FriendFeed users feel jilted? Or, an examination of erotic impulses

This is a follow-up to my Monday Empoprise-BI post about Facebook's acquisition of FriendFeed, FaceFeed - Facebook acquired FriendFeed, FriendFeed is a failure, and garage dreamers should wake up. In that post, I talked about the business ramifications of the deal, but today I want to address the ramifications for users.

But first, I want to talk about high school.

You remember your high school days. Often, you fell in love with someone during those days. If you were lucky (or perhaps unlucky), the object of your affection also loved you. But perhaps the object of your affection thought you were scum. Or maybe the O.O.Y.A. thought that you were a nice friend, but didn't think of you in "that way." Or maybe the O.O.Y.A. did think of you in that way, but as time passed the ardor cooled. Regardless, in many cases of high school love, the other person didn't love you like you loved the other person. This caused feelings of hurt, perhaps betrayal, perhaps depression. Maybe you vowed you would never fall in love again.

Those same emotions, which are often attached to people, can often be attached to inanimate objects, like sports teams and companies. When the Dodgers baseball team left Brooklyn, hundreds of thousands of people felt jilted. When this star or that star gets busted for drugs or whatever, we feel jilted.

And many people experienced those same emotions when Facebook acquired FriendFeed. Louis Gray portrayed the love relationship between Facebook and FriendFeed, but the stronger love relationship was between FriendFeed and its fans. Let me cite two examples.

Alex Scoble thought his relationship with FriendFeed was special, even though his brother also had a well-known relationship with FriendFeed. (That's the thing about relationships with inanimate objects; they're not monogamous.) Alex is a prolific FriendFeed user, connecting to thousands of people and having tens of thousands of interactions (comments and likes). So how did he react to the news of the acquisition? Here's one of the things that he said on Monday:

Is it wrong for me to feel a certain sense of betrayal? I didn't spend all my time here making connections, adding in interesting content and trying to get friends to join so that friendfeed would get acquired by Facebook.

And note the verb that Scoble uses in this comment:

Don't be an early adopter because you'll get screwed 9 times out of 10.

And there's a little bit of anger in this one, in a Charles Atlas sort of sense:

I'm going to kick in the crotch anyone else that uses "it's just business", to excuse the bad antisocial behavior of a business.

But Alex has not lost all hope. He's still active on FriendFeed, and he still has Cassie. But some people have taken things farther. Take Bwana:

As many of you know I was a big supporter of FriendFeed. Many blog posts, tutorials, and content on that site. [Monday's] announcement has finally sunk in...

I'm not going to invest more time in FriendFeed - Right now it seems pointless. I could go on and on about why I think the platform is essentially frozen, but I won't. My FriendFeed account is still there, but no new content will flow in as I've removed all services....

Incidentally, I ended up responding to Bwana's statement:

I see no reason to make a change at this time personally. Perhaps I may echo a few more FriendFeed entries to Twitter, but the non-FriendFeed content that I streadmed to FriendFeed is still available at the originating services, so I'm not pressed to make a change at this moment. As of today, FriendFeed remains among my top three visited sites (the other two are Google Reader and

Of course, this could change next week...

Now I'm not saying that I don't get attached to inanimate objects - if were to make a drastic change I would probably weep - but despite my FriendFeed use, I don't feel that sense of betrayal that other people do. Perhaps I'd feel differently if the plug was pulled immediately after the acquisition was announced, and perhaps I'd feel differently if I didn't have a Facebook account.

So why do people go through these emotions with inanimate objects? I don't know. Perhaps Brian "Bex" Huff has some insights on this, but I don't at the moment. I did find this post in which someone recognized an attachment to a dead laptop as "unhealthy," but the "why" wasn't truly explored until a commenter jumped in:

...the drafting of mourning means a gradual process of relocation and transfer of what Freud called impulse object (I do not know the translation into English). So, any object is, if we can say so, animated by our erotical impulse.

Also because we suppose to be “animated being” and we propose ourself to the world (to the universe) as if it were an inanimate object....

For more on love of inanimate objects, I turned to that well-known psychoanalytical publication, Boing Boing:

Objectum-sexuals are people who fall in love with inanimate objects, like building, cars, and Hammond organs. And I don't mean appreciation of good design, I mean l-o-v-e.

So if you're feeling betrayed by FriendFeed...check your erotic impulses.
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