2012 has been the year of the Facebook IPO. At long last, everybody’s favorite (or at least, most often used) social network is going to cash in on its years of data hoarding and future-defining, and this has collectively touched a nerve within the tech community. It’s a frenzy, really: every day, there are uncountable new stories about how Facebook stock will plummet or skyrocket, how users should beware, or not care at all, and most depressingly how Mark Zuckerberg wears hoodies.
We’ve rallied around the Facebook IPO in an almost cult-like, apocalyptic way, and the tech reporting community has turned into a sort of gossipy group of middle schoolers who think they know more about banking and finances than they actually do – which, for the record, is the worst kind of middle schooler.
Is this about Wall Street or the Web?
The moment that Facebook issued its S-1 form, the tech media began salivating. It was vulture-like. And since that moment, it’s all spiraled uncontrollably to this point where technology news is completely and utterly obsessed with milking this story for all it’s worth and desperately trying to make it more applicable.
There’s a natural intersection of business news and tech news because technology and digital media have become huge enterprise platforms. And we’ve been here before. Maybe not exactly here, but somewhere like it. During the Dot Com rush of the 90s, the Internet captured the attention of investors, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between.
This go round, it’s creating an almost unhealthy obsession with Facebook’s IPO. Yes, it’s crazy that a Website started in a dorm room has spiraled into a billion-dollar company – but there’s this attitude that come Friday, everything changes. That the Internet will be different and Facebook will be different; that how we interact with Facebook is being inherently changed. And it’s not.
When Facebook launched Timeline or Open Graph or announced its new marketing platform, these things meant something for users and developers and the tech community at large. But this is about investors, and we just couldn’t help but blur those lines. And for that…
You deserve an apology
Your news feed has been overwhelming flooded with Facebook IPO buzz and for most of you, it means nothing. It’s not entirely unwarranted: many of us have been using, watching, writing, and reading about Facebook since it first started, and that fact that it’s about to go public deserves commentary and analysis. But this… this is unacceptable. The desperation with which tech media have fueled the fire is unforgiveable (these are real headlines):
- How Facebook’s IPO will change your life
- Facebook IPO: The musical
- How will Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodie affect the Facebook IPO?
- Facebook IPO: Good for Jews?
- Investing in the Facebook IPO? You may have a mental disorder
Who needs to care, and who really, really doesn’t
Some of the reaching is natural: articles exploring what it means for recent Facebook acquisitions or implications for the company’s mobile approach are warranted. But at a certain point, this isn’t in readers best interest. The mania of it all makes it ripe for fear mongering, as everyone likely saw with the “Everyone distrusts Facebook! Don’t trust Facebook!” articles that have been cropping up. It’s like we all know this subject doesn’t have a lot of play with the average person interested in tech, because it’s about big money and Wall Street, but in order to make it tangible we twist and prod and pull until we find a way to bring it to the mass audience’s level. But that’s pandering and it isn’t good for anybody.
I’ve seen articles that claim you’re an idiot if you aren’t trying to get a piece of the Facebook stock and others that call you one if you are. Then there are the unstoppable editorials about users mass deleting their accounts, that the site is a passing fad, that there are new privacy concerns. These articles have been written time and time again, only now they might seem to carry a sense of urgency because there’s this other big news about the IPO, and naturally tying them together gives a story more weight and makes it mean something to more people.
In reality, the list of who actually needs be reading this stuff day in and day out is relatively short. If you:
- Work for Facebook
- Invested in Facebook
- Are an investment banker
- Follow the stock market (are you seeing a pattern here?)
- Everyone else
For the rest of us, it’s interesting for sure, but it isn’t life-changing. You will not become richer or poorer and Facebook will become better or worse, which it would have regardless of an IPO.
The Facebook IPO is more about Wall Street than the Website, and that’s why followers of consumer tech who realize this drumming up headlines business is nothing more than a game should brace themselves. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.