Friday, January 18, 2008

My Facebook Experience

A few months ago i started a profile on Facebook just to experiment with it. I wanted to try ILike in particular, but i was intrigued by the whole concept of plug-in applications within the context of a social network.

Visually, it's certainly a step up from MySpace, but that's faint praise. It seems to work basically as advertised, and there are a couple of Facebook applications that i genuinely like (the MusicBlogs app that came out Yahoo! is really cool). The privacy implications of Facebook are a major concern, but with 15 million users i don't feel spied-on so much as trivialized into some bland demographic. On the other hand, i really fail to understand the point of the whole bloody thing. Seriously, what the hell is this thing for?

The crux of the problem for me is the social part of social networking. As an introverted sort, i do not, in the physical world, have a large social network. Beyond my immediate family and a handful of friends, there aren't a lot of people that i communicate with. None of my Facebook friends are friends in that sense-- they are people i have worked with or casual acquaintances. All good people to be sure, but generally not my close friends.

I have very little insight into the extrovert personality. I know intellectually that somebody with 70 or 80 Facebook friends is not really treating all of those people as friends in any meaningful way. But i'm not quite sure what it is that they're trying to impress upon them. Having similar tastes in movies or music or whatever might be amusing, but is it really enough to forge a relationship? I can imagine that it might be useful to pass on news and photos if your family and close friends were on the network also, but i've been using e-mail for that quite successfully for a while now.

My older son's generation seems to use MySpace as an entirely separate communications medium. It's both asynchronous and many to many so they can use it as a community bulletin board, but they also often use certain profiles to communicate with one or two individuals. They seem to have bridged the gap between an actual social environment and a virtual one without really stopping to think about it.

There are so many intelligent people out there who are convinced that the wisdom of crowds represents a major new mode of information discovery that i'm sure they must be right. But i'll believe it when i see it.

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