My wife thinks it’s funny that I never check Facebook anymore. I got her into it and now she checks it daily. I got my account way back when you still had to have a .edu email address to get an account. It was worthless for a while because no one else I knew had an account. Then for a while it was a great way to communicate. Now Facebook is basically worthless again.
I get that I can connect with old friends and I like that. I can track the daily actions of people I haven’t seen in years by watching the constant stream of attention metadata. It’s kind of a social pornography. I can watch. I don’t have to engage or put any meaningful social effort into the interactions. I think that is the addiction people have to Facebook. You know when your friend is furious with their kids. You can see that an ex boss/girlfriend/bff etc just experienced something rotten and feel the disgusting elation of another human being’s misfortune. There’s a constant stream of photographs of vacations, parties, pets. It’s as if you’ve just gotten sucked into the Smith’s slide show hell all over again but the benefit is that you can get up an pee anytime you need to.
My problem with Facebook isn’t that I don’t enjoy feeling like I’m a part of the biggest social gathering in Earth’s history. Instead, my network has become diluted.
I’m connected with family, new friends, old friends, old work colleagues, business contacts, random stalkers etc. It’s like everyone I’ve ever known is gather in one room and so every time I sneeze I’m worried that I might get boogers on someone since Facebook is tracking that.
The reality is that the real world consists of social bins. We seek out and interact with different individuals based on social context. It’s not that we dislike someone (or maybe we do). It’s not that we don’t want to be friends or that we have secrets. Instead, we don’t really want our business contacts being bother with the details of a local get together. We don’t always want our neighbors to know about our business deals. I used to love that I could reap the benefit of constant contact with hundreds of people that I’ve interacted with over the past 20 years without putting much effort in. Now, my concern is that so many people from so many social bins are always listening that I fear appearing stupid so I say nothing. You can’t defriend someone even though Burger King tried to make that simple. Not sure how I’d feel about that excuse. Dear friend, you are worth less than a really crappy hamburger.
I think this is the weakness of general purpose social networking tools. They lack social context and thus are exposed to the cycle I outlined above. No one is there so the network isn’t valuable. Friends are there and the network has value. Everyone is there and the value of the network dissipates until the value is diluted perhaps to a point where it is worthless again.
Don’t take this to mean I have withdrawn from the network, but don’t be surprised I don’t join anyone’s mafia wars or send out the obligatory comment on a birthday. Instead, I’ll be there. Watching. Silently….