Following a tweeted link to “the funniest comment thread ever”, I spent a few minutes laughing at the expense of hundreds of confused Facebookers. They had been leaving comments on a ReadWriteWeb blog post about a recent venture with AOL to share login access. It took me a few seconds to get the joke: there were scores of comments like:
The new facebook sucks> NOW LET ME IN.
please give me back the old facebook login this is crazy……………..
All I want to do is log in, this sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
One of the RWW team confirmed in the comment thread that these were genuine: that the traffic was coming from Google referrals using search terms like “facebook login”.
Hundreds of Facebook users googled for the Facebook login page and, landing on RWW’s post, left comments expressing how frustrated they were with the new layout and their inability to login.
Even after RWW put up the following message in the post, people continued to complain:
Dear visitors from Google. This site is not Facebook. This is a website called ReadWriteWeb that reports on news about Facebook and other Internet services. You can however click here and become a Fan of ReadWriteWeb on Facebook, to receive our updates and learn more about the Internet. To access Facebook right now, click here. For future reference, type “facebook.com” into your browser address bar or enter “facebook” into Google and click on the first result. We recommend that you then save Facebook as a bookmark in your browser.
This is hugely funny, until it becomes sad.
After a few pages of befuddled (and often abusive) lost Facebookers, the comments started to contain more genuine commenters observing their enjoyment of the confusion, trollbaiting, and teasing the confused crowd. Some were genuinely clever (likes), but many followed the basic forum trajectory of ridicule.
What struck me, however, was my own ignorance in this. I had no idea just how many people rely on services like Facebook who don’t have even a basic grasp of how they’re doing it. The fundamental “browser” metaphor makes it pretty clear that you need to “be” a certain place in order for things to work the way you expect them to. Even without some form of teaching, that level seems too obvious not to get.
But it clearly isn’t. The implications are potentially worrying. Hundreds of people were able to leave comments on a site that wasn’t their destination stating their outrage and confusion. One commentator made a good point about them being lucky that ReadWriteWeb is a relatively benign place to accidentally land; but what if this were a post about Wells Fargo or a health insurance company?
Like many near-geeks, I’ve helped friends and family on technical issues in the past, and there is a level of assessment involved: Where do I need to start to get them using this? But nothing prepared me for this.
This may be hilariously funny, and it might be disconcerting, but it’s most definitely a lesson.
Image “Noob” by @keeg via flickr, Creative Commons By, Non-Commercial license