Joining Facebook

23:52 Sun 14 Oct 2007. Updated: 00:55 15 Oct 2007
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After years of ignoring social networking sites, starting in 2002 with Friendster, I finally joined Facebook yesterday.

The main reason for my joining is due to a friend who’s somewhat paranoid about online privacy. That might not sound like a reason to join Facebook, but it turned into one, and so I joined.

So far, I’ve been quite impressed with it. It helps a great deal that it’s not noisy and ugly the way MySpace is, and it doesn’t seem to be quite as much of a popularity contest as Friendster was, although I could just be naively missing that part of it. Its interface seems mostly clean and intuitive. It seems to allow for varying degrees of connectivity without being tremendously busy and annoying (although I’m sure one could make it really annoying by adopting all kinds of applications). One-and-a-half days in, I like it.

I like it and I wonder if it’s good enough that it could become a true “control center” for significant chunks of people’s social lives, rather than an additional service that has to be maintained in addition to those social lives. In other words, if it’s good enough to become something along the lines of email, phones, IM, and so on, a social medium in itself that’s more or less integrated in people’s daily lives rather than being a hobby-like activity.

It certainly has become a social medium for a lot of people, but it’s not clear to me yet how much effort they expend to use it as such, and the degree to which that effort is a “hobby-like activity”. Back when Friendster was big, I definitely got the impression that it was heavily on the hobby side of that divide.

My intent with Facebook is to keep it to “real friends”, that is people I know well and want to keep in touch with, and to try to not expand it to people who are work acquaintances and so on. I assume that’s a fairly tricky balancing act, of course, and that rejecting someone’s friend request would be perceived as quite rude. Danah Boyd talks about this problem, and her outcome makes it seem pessimistic, but on the other hand I’m not a fairly well-known internet public figure the way she is, and probably have a significantly smaller number of potential links.

Another viewpoint is that Facebook, like its predecessors, is basically a toy whose attraction will wane. I think that’s completely possible, but my initial impression is that Facebook might be just good enough to function as a kind of social control panel—especially in the absence of competitors that are both better functionally and have critical mass of their own.

In the meantime, I’ll slowly connect with people, hopefully using it to successfully overcome some of the problems I have keeping in touch with people, and think about whether or not I should join groups like People Who Always Have To Spell Their Names For Other People (232,165 members).

4 Responses to “Joining Facebook”

  1. mollydot Says:

    I don’t know why more social sites don’t have the concept of friends groups, like livejournal has. Flickr sort of does, but only a predefined two. I especially like that you can’t tell what lj groups you’re in. There’s no fear of offending (without yourself or other people giving it away).

  2. Eoin Says:

    Maybe its just me, but I kinda think these things are just another way to lose even more time to mindless surfing. Coincidently, UF’s current strip is concerning Facebook. This made me smirk

  3. Tadhg Says:

    They definitely enable more mindless surfing, sure. But they do also offer another opportunity/reminder to interact with friends. Balance, as usual, is the key… although I have to say that since posting this I’ve used Facebook a lot less. This is probably related to the amount of social activity in my immediate vicinity.

  4. Tadhg Says:

    Mollydot: I haven’t used the friends group stuff at all, but I see how it could be useful. Although it seems that being able to tell what groups you’re in would be a useful feature…

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