"Proven" doesn't mean anything either if the work they produce is so proven that it has become boring.
Photographers tend to think consumers' standards are getting lower but I think it's the exact opposite. I think peoples' standards are getting higher. It's getting harder to impress people so if you want to make money you have to be better than ever. If you're just "okay" then you'll be bunched in with the other guys who are just "okay" and the differentiator will be price.
As far as the facebook comments...that's just people being nice to their friends. They look past the technical stuff and see their friend, who they love very much. When they're actually shopping for their own photography, they want to get someone who makes them look amazing. They're more critical of photos of themselves than they are of photos of their friends when their money is on the line.
I agree with your statements above. The problem is is that when you look at the prices these people (a couple have changed it up) in my area are charging it's obvious it isn't enough to sustain a full time business, it's hobby pricing. The days of the general photographer with a business front studio is going the way of the dodo bird.