One Page Ahead Words, words, words.

1 April 2008 @ 10pm

social, web

Facebook: Trying to get it

I’m trying to get it. But I’ve gotta be missing something. I like to stay reasonably on top of leading-edge web tech and trends. I don’t jump for the latest hype, but I do pay attention to what’s happening on the intertubes. This Facebook thing is supposedly hot stuff. I’m totally there.

According to Forbes magazine, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, is the youngest self-made billionaire on the planet. Facebook is currently valued at around 15 billion dollars. 67 million other users are spending hours a day connecting with friends. Advertisers are flocking to the revenue potential available with the new Facebook development platform. For a hugely successful social networking website like that, there’s gotta be some pretty special magic to it. Right?

Back in 2003 I started picking up on the buzz around social network sites. I wasn’t really sure what a social network would do for me, but I was listening.

I dipped my toes into Friendster, then later Orkut. Earlier than those, I left a few personal crumbs with Classmates. There were others out there that I passed on since social networks were so quickly sprouting and dying in ’03-’04. I saw that they had some potential benefits, so what the heck? But from the beginning I’ve been consistently running into a few of the same questions and problems.

First, which network are all of your friends on? That’s a big one. I have some friends on this network, others on another network, and few are on both. And that’s not counting the friends who don’t give a damn what an online social network site is. What about the online friends whose main presence was predominantly on message boards?

Second, I’ve already had the mail, phone, and email contact info of the majority of my friends. Those communication methods have been pretty darn functional for years, more than a decade even. My friends are still receptive to any of those contact methods too. Although, in my getting theoretically busier over the past years, I’m sorry to say that I haven’t been doing a great job of using these to keep in touch with everyone. Just ask Mom (I’ll call tomorrow, I promise!).

Third, maintaining an active presence on one or more social networks demands time and attention. One has to keep up on what all of your friends are doing. You have to approve new friends (after figuring out whether you actually know them, if that’s a concern). There are comments to read and respond to. Friends’ new photos need to be reviewed. And then there’s managing all of those movie quizzes, personality tests, and… um… pokes and zombie biting? Why am I not seeing the value in having been virtually bitten by the binary undead?

MySpace started getting big a few years back. To me it was Yet Another Social Network. Sure it was popular, but look at the design of those pages. All polluted and flashing, it was practically screaming Son of the <Blink> Tag! No way was I going to join this one. Absolutely not. Then I found out that a friend was on MySpace. I wanted to keep up with what she had going on but… one had to be a member to access all of the content. Sure I could pick up the phone or email her to see what’s new. And I see her on a somewhat regular basis anyway. But I know that she’s probably already updated things on her MySpace page. Why make her repeat herself? Dang it. I signed up for MySpace.

I don’t recall exactly what motivated me into Facebook. Perhaps it was thinking that it had to be improved over MySpace. It’s better in some ways, but there’s still a ton of chatter that leaves me hesitant to visit the site. I’m sure I could clean things up a little, but I still wouldn’t be using the sites for much more than a marker on the web for others to find me. Though my Friendster and Orkut profiles appear to still be out there, they’re only gathering dust, digital droppings left while the web changed.

That’s the thing. I don’t do a whole lot of interacting with friends via MySpace or Facebook. And both of those sites will likely shuffle off to the Internet Archive one of these years anyway. The web landscape is constantly changing (sigh… Mosaic). So why am I there? Or, why do I keep signing up for the damn things? The sites are most useful for seeing what some friends are up to. But that’s not interacting. I’d prefer to actually talk in person or on the phone with friends, share a non-virtual beer, go out to a restaurant or movie or both.

So in light of my reluctant activity on these sites, and yet still seeing the need to keep in touch with friends, how do I establish my own optimum social network? I think we’re looking at it right here. Developing this blog and my website overall seems a much more worthwhile use of my time and energy. Obviously this strategy isn’t for everyone. A big appeal of MySpace and Facebook is that they’ve already laid that groundwork for what a lot of users need in online social networking. And I’ll still have a presence on those sites for a while. But it’ll be interesting to see what I can grow right here, along with the archaic pre-21st century tools that still exist. I’ll have to report back as this experiment goes on.

Am I completely missing something way totally cool with Facebook or MySpace?