Why do Facebook users hate change?

Why do Facebook users hate change?

Summary: Facebook, as a social phenomenon, a greater oddity exists when the site changes its layout or features. Why do Facebook users hate change, or is it a wider societal problem?


There is a hate in the air that cannot be ignored.

It's ironic that enough people have turned to the 'fallback' social network to lambaste Facebook by tweeting about it, to the point where anger is so clear, the #NewFacebook hashtag is trending worldwide.

With nearly 800 million around the world using Facebook on a regular basis, there is widespread anger over changes to the 'news feed' -- the stream of information collated on the front page of every Facebook profile -- and the overall profile changes.

Gallery To see the brand new Facebook profile layout (no, not the one you've already seen, but the one that will replace the already new one released only this week), then head on over here. Prepare for a shock.

The changes itself are not radical in that all the statuses and profile updates are still displayed in the right hand column. The 'ticker', that keeps the user abreast of photos, updates, links posted and other Page related content, has changed location but it still performs the same function.

But others are questioning whether we are even 'allowed' to complain. It's a free service, on the face of it. We are allowed to sign up and use the service in exchange of our personal information, and do so free of charge. Are we consumers, customers or something else entirely?

People generally do not like change. It is as simple as that. But why?

(Source: Flickr)

The immediate reaction, as you would expect, has been all but negative. But I would argue that younger people are more adaptive to change than their older counterparts.

Re-learning process

While many will be used to the changes in the next couple of weeks, the initial change means a re-learning process, something in which images of primary and secondary schooling are conjured back up.

The Generation Y are more adaptable to change, with many embracing anything new and exciting. But for the older Generation X, our parents, while new things can be equally exciting, the re-learning process comes at a cost.

For too many people even today, the association of learning is still met with difficulty. For decades, the Generation X have been without compulsory schooling and formal education. To jump back into the habit of needing to re-learn something from scratch can bring back up regressive feelings of a negative schooling experience.

The younger lot, still fresh from school and more comfortable with the formal learning process, are more adept to change.

Where technology meets psychology

Even in technology, especially in technology, people feel insecure. People pick their brands and hold them close to their chest. Technology may be a neutral force for good or evil, but people feel more secure knowing they can be connected to others at a moment's notice.

People need reassurances. Just as we like to explore new things, we are just as cautious as we have ever been, seeing most new things as a threat to our long-term stability. Though, of course, some people are more adaptable to change, it seems to wain as the generational divide shifts.

When a radical change is made to something 'already useful', but does not fundamentally change the experience, people rebel -- and they rebel quickly.

Take the microwave, for one. It can heat up food in two minutes rather than twenty. People were terrified of it at first; this 'alien' technology could have long-term health effects and other untold consequences. But the benefits from accepting new things can often outweigh the apparent negatives.

Why Facebook is changing

Facebook is changing because it needs parity with Google+, the new social network on the scene. Facebook needs to be seen as progressive; otherwise it could be demonised or fall into the trap of 'being the next MySpace'.

Users by very nature do not want to learn how to use a product every six months.

Remember when Office 2007 transformed the menu to the 'Ribbon'? The user backlash was tremendous, but Microsoft stuck it out and somehow it succeeded. But users needed to write documents and create spreadsheets, and the functionality was there; seemingly hidden by a necessary new learning experience.

Though Facebook is hardly forthcoming with its user statistics, I can all but bet that nearly a quarter of the 800 million users of Facebook use their mobile phone or smartphone either just as much, or more than the desktop version.

Update: This says it all, really.

Because if this theory stands, as Facebook does not update their mobile applications half as much as they do on the desktop, it offers users greater stability and fewer opportunities to feel negative about the changes.


Topic: Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What do you think?

    Do you hate Facebook, and why? Are you an active Facebook user and dislike the changes (and why?), or are you happy with change and like to explore new things? Is there a generational divide between re-learning and change? <b>Have your say.</b>
    • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

      Been online since the days of BBS and Usenet, never had a problem with change, always adapted. The new Facebook ticker feature, in particular, is the first time I have ever been legitimately, medically affected by something online (seriously, for someone who suffers from migraines induced by watching constant, rapid movement and/or attention deficit disorder, that thing is like having a seizure inducing strobe light placed on the Facebook newsfeed of someone with photosensitive epilepsy), hence, for the first time in over 15 years of online & social networking usage, I am complaining. Getting rid of the ticker through browser extensions then also allowed me to notice the other newsfeed changes in regards to 'top posts', and the like, and I found that I severely dislike those as well. Facebook seems to be assuming I've somehow misplaced my brain. I don't like my online social experience being dictated to by a set of algorithms, rather than being allowed to think for myself, and to decide what I do, or don't wish to read, or consider important enough that it should be placed at the very top of my priorities. I have a scrollbar, I am capable of scrolling down, and deciding what I consider important enough to read, skip over, hide, or nuke into orbit.
    • Change is Fine But...

      @zwhittaker The new "News Feed" app is ignoring my exclusion list. The "My News Feed" list still works correctly. THAT is what has me furious. It is showing me posts from people who I have specifically removed from my news feed. Further, it is flagging those people I have removed as "interesting" with the blue corner. No, they are not interesting. In fact, they are the opposite of interesting. Which is why I removed them from my news feed.
    • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

      @zwhittaker Get six pack Abs

      I???m busy and can???t spend 60 minutes a day with exercises.
      Truth About Six Pack Abs does not require this.
      30-45 minutes workouts 2-3 times a week should do the trick

      go here : <em></em>goo<em></em>.<em></em>gl<em></em><em></em>/YR85Z<em></em>
      • Six Pack Abs

        @alexdan2 get six pack brains.
    • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

      @zwhittaker It's not that the users hate change entirely, its that they hate change done poorly.

      Google has become an expert at this. They give you a preview of the change, usually on their blog, then they implement, and they implement the same way for everyone. I've heard minimal complaints from my parents and older folks about how Gmail has changed, for example.

      Facebook, on the other hand, changes some of the people over, some not, sometimes with an announcement, sometimes not, so no one is quite sure whether its not working correctly, its a new feature, or they're just working on some new idea. It comes off as reading "change for the sake of change" rather than "interesting new feature that you might like".

      People need to know what to expect. If Facebook actually properly announced and planned for these changes, I feel it would go much more seamlessly. The older folks I know are getting upset - they might log in once or twice a month to the website, and every time they log in, its different, and they have to relearn how to do everything all over again - and as you said, that relearning comes with a cost.

      But again, it comes back to Facebook not giving people the assurance of planning, announcement, and equal distribution of changes. If people know to expect a change, they're significantly less aggravated than when they aren't expecting it. (At least, its been my IT experience that way. Perhaps its different for others.)

      That being said, count me in the annoyed category. The constant flickering of the ticker gives me headaches after awhile, and the "top stories" Facebook decides clearly have no idea how I think at all, because it typically only chooses Farmville and other Zynga games or stupid chain reposts as top stories that I need to read, when I don't play any of those games and I don't repost those stupid chain letters. If their changes were better executed, I might not be as annoyed all the time. And speaking as a advertising buyer and Facebook credits buyer, Facebook isn't free to me - I've earned the right to complain.
    • *No* generational divide


      For one thing, the whole "Gen X vs. Gen Y" divide is not as broad as you would think. My wife, for example, falls into the middle of Gen X (as do I): her youngest brother (only 8 years younger than her) is near the top of Gen Y. Neither of our parents fall into either category, being part of the pre-Gen X "baby boomer" generation. However, they both grew up with the family having a home PC, & they both grew up with technology becoming more & more available in the classroom. In fact, my brother-in-law has been out of school *longer* than my wife has -- he stopped after his associate's degree, she went back for a master's degree. And although neither is in a "techie" field (HVAC tech for my brother-in-law, college professor for my wife), her career actually involves greater use of PC technology than his does, so she's more tech-savvy than he is.
      • Off-topic


        What is *up* with these forums? The only character-length limitation I see is on the subject, but apparently if your response is too long it gets cut off, too. What the frack!?!
    • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

      Part 2:

      I think the key is that the average Facebook user, no matter what their age, is *not* a "techie". I know how to drive a car, how to put gas in it, how to check my tires for air pressure, & how to top off the fluid containers under the hood... but I'm *not* qualified to repair my car, let alone qualified as a certified auto repair tech. By the same token, Gen Y & Gen X users may be more *familiar* with using PCs & other high-tech devices than their parents are... but just because you know how to run an app, reboot your PC, or hit a power switch means you know how to interpret or diagnose error messages that crop up when your hardware/software goes belly-up.

      If anything, I would think that the younger the generation, the *less* receptive they are to change, especially change that "breaks" the functionality they were used to. Older generations are used to a "slower" speed of technology implementation, as well as a slower response-time to fixing it. Younger generations are more of a mindset of, "If it's broken, I want it fixed *now*; don't tell me you can fix it 2 hours from now!!".
    • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

      @zwhittaker I'd be okay with the Facebook changes if there were simple ways to turn some of the new features off. I don't care to know what games my friends are playing, and I don't have to be updated to everything they're saying at all hours. Also, the new update emails are every bit as annoying to turn off as the old ones were.<br><br>Honestly, I think Failbook makes changes just so they have an excuse to mine your data... [u]without permission[/u].
      • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

        @Champ_Kind you are 100 % correct. Each time they make changes you have reset your privacy settings all over again. Good scam they got going
    • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

      I agree with @cfbandit it is primarily the way change is done, versus change in itself.<br><br>I'm a tech-savvy super-user and an adult educator (as well as an admin and a writer). I loved the change in MS Office to the Ribbon--I found that heads-up dashboard easy to understand. However, I trained many an admin, of all ages, who didn't *get* it, so I understand how change can affect those who are not ready for a paradigm shift. <br><br>What Facebook has done with so many changes in the past year, including major changes in privacy, is prime the pump of user hate. People start to hear about changes via word-of-mouth; the anticipation becomes negative; changes hit different users in the same household at different times. Resentment builds in users who do not want to have to spend hours re-learning a site they use for recreation. <br><br>However, the thought of moving to another platform (Google+, for example) is more overwhelming than adapting to Facebook change. I think it's the tension among #1 considering giving up a fun, recreational activity, #2 spending hours relearning how to work that recreational activity, or #3 starting over on a new site that unleashes the vitriolic hate of Facebook change.<br><br>What could have helped was a concise, effectively written single web page, which gave the user tips on how to quickly get the "new News Feed" to feature what the user wants to see and how the user wants to see it. <br><br>The attitude of FB programmers/planners/leadership seems to be that FB is too good to give up. To them I would say: Do you want to be the next Netflix/Qwikster ?
    • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

      Its not about the the concept of "change", Its more about changing something thats just fine as it is. It doesnt need a constant update or "change". It seems facebook just wants to do what someone else wantsand not the user? Why not give an option to change the way we look at the page? Why keep making changes people hate/dont need/very useless/non user freindly?
    • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

      @zwhittaker I'm still getting used to this. But I think the heart of the matter is that this is not only technology, or a software product. This is a social site, a place where people expect to meet other people. It's a virtual counterpart to going outside of your house and meeting your neighbors or your college buddies in the next dorm's room. You don't want the map of your neighborhood or your dorm to be changing every now and then, right?

      I guess that people hate change in Facebook, specially in Facebook, not only because the new learning curve, but because it gets in the way of their social experience, the very reason for their coming to Facebook in the first place.
  • New flash - people don't like change period

    People in general don't like change as they get used to how something works. New UI means a slight learning curve, new features need to be understood.

    Considering the bulk of facebook users are not technically they have little needs for new stuff. They don't use facebook for it's features, they use it due to the people on it.

    BTW facebook is far from "free" your paying much more in terms of privacy and your data.

    leaving facebook was the best thing I decided.
    • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?


      Exactly.. Many of these same people complained on how they would like more control on what updates they see and be able to sort their friends into groups based on their relationship level.. The FB change does just that.

      All day yesterday I was seeing commentary to bring back the old news feed. I made the suggestion that people make a list called "Everyone" and just add all their friends and pages to that. Then they can click on that list and it looks almost like the old news feed.
      • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

        Perhaps, they would like to breakdown their friends list on their own rather than have facebook do it and have to go through hoops to "fix" it. I know personally, I would simply like to separate people into a "Yes" and "No".
      • RE: breakdown their friends list on their own


        They can. The problem is because so many lumped everybody into one flat category FB divided some by default and they just have to spend some time sorting them out.

        I believe it divided them up using items that people created in the profile settings where they add their jobs, family and other settings as I got lists created for me from people I went to school/college with, that I work or worked with, and then people I listed as my family members.

        I understand their frustration but maybe it is because I am a very organized person (at least in the digital world) and I already had it mostly sorted out that I saw no issues with getting the information that I like to see.
    • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

      @MobileAdmin Hmmmm - this might be one of the first times I've almost entirely agreed with you... While I'm not leaving FB anytime soon as I use it as a tool to keep up with far flung friends IMHO FB is making too many changes too quickly to keep up with G+.
  • RE: Why do Facebook users hate change?

    It may be a free service, but it makes money, without users, the money will not roll in, so yes we have the right to complain. Facebook is trying to emulate twitter and google plus, and make changes without proper thought of its users.
    It seems we get used to one change from facebook, then it implements another, this is the worst of the changes it has made, they need to keep things simple, and stop trying to keep up with the Jones's