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Facebook (FB) has always been a cause for handwringing. In its early days, it was seen as a haven of debauchery -- exhibit A in the indictment of misguided youth -- as college students mindlessly posted pictures and comments. As adults, those same users discovered that their campus carousing might now keep them from gainful employment.

Now as the website settles into comfortable middle age, the handwringing comes from those in the biz-tech community who realize that Facebook's days of being a hot young commodity are over.

But how exactly did this happen? And what does Facebook do now?

It is a fairly well established fact that Facebook has a privacy problem. There have been countless stories of employees losing jobs or not being hired due to material posted on Facebook. Or kids suspended from class for posting pictures of their "sick day." There have been the various "slut-shaming" controversies, some of which have resulted in suicides. And earlier this summer, Facebook admitted it had accidentally exposed contact information for as many as 6 million users.

But these are extreme examples. The bigger problem with Facebook can be summed up in one sentence: "My mom is on Facebook."

Politics, women, alcohol

Once upon a time my Facebook posting was fairly frequent, but it has now slowed to just a couple of times a month. And it's not a lack of desire to post my thoughts that keeps me from doing it, it's the knowledge that there is absolutely nothing that I can post about that could not cause problems.

During the courtship period, most of my status updates centered on politics, women, or alcohol, all of which there are very valid reasons to not talk about on Facebook anymore. But a few weeks ago, I thought I had stumbled on a rant that was still safe for our "everybody's watching me" world: a New Yorker's frustration with tourists.

On a daily basis I arrive at the subway stop at 53rd and 5th, which, for those unfamiliar, has an extremely long escalator ride up from the depths. And frequently there are tourists who don't realize that an escalator is not a ride, but a method to help you walk faster. I thought that an angry public service announcement about this would make a fine Facebook status update.

Unfortunately my mother, like any good Midwestern Irish Mom, has decided Facebook is the appropriate place to remind me that I need to be a nicer person. To do this, she responded to the thread with a story about the first time I was on an escalator. As a 4-year-old.

Like any sensible 4-year-old in the late '70s. I was convinced that the escalator would eat me at the bottom, and threw a royal temper tantrum in the middle of the Florence Mall, refusing to descend to the ground floor. My mother ultimately had to carry me down the stairs over her shoulder, while my father pretended he had no idea who that screaming child was. Needless to say, this image, of me as a hysterical child afraid of an escalator does not particularly jibe with the ice cool Brooklynite vibe I wish that I projected.

Thus I will never post on Facebook again.

Keeps Facebook from being interesting

Lest you think this is just a complicated revenge scheme against my mom (which, let's be clear, it is), it's this exact phenomenon that keeps driving Facebook's user engagement numbers down.

Far more than the fears about future employment, more than the creepy coworker who "likes" all your bikini pictures, it is the fear of awkward conversations with our relatives that keeps us from posting to Facebook.

This fear is also keeping Facebook from being interesting. We used to view Facebook for the exact same stuff that we are now told never to post; the "I'm so hung over" status messages, the "dancing on top of the bar" videos, and yes, the bikini photos.

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By this point in Facebook's existence, everyone is very much aware that you need to be exceptionally careful of what you post on Facebook. The clear-cut solution for Facebook has been to get its privacy settings perfected in such a way that no one is ever hurt by using the website, but this ignores the fundamental question of why we are on Facebook to begin with . . . or at least why we used to be.

Discussions of Facebook's failure to monetize have been numerous. Their advertising models have been either ineffective or disturbingly Orwellian.  And their new strategy of sponsored posts have only increased the fundamental problem: Most of us don't want to be there anymore, and no one will say exactly why. Instead, we get occasional stories about a general concept labeled "Facebook fatigue."

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