Business - Written by Tim Bevins on Friday, October 1, 2010 16:34 - 2 Comments
Facebook, Facebook, Facebook
Sick of hearing about Facebook yet? Not me, but I bet many people are. The movie. The critics of the movie. The critics of Facebook. The supporters of Facebook. The real story. The fictionalized story. Aaron Sorkin. Aaron Sorkin on The Colbert Report and 27 other shows. Justin Timberlake on The Daily Show and 27 other shows. The ongoing privacy and security issues and blunders in both areas. Changes in appearance and capability. Blah. Blah. Blah.
If you are sick of hearing about it, then you may agree with Malcolm Gladwell’s perspective on Facebook members in his New Yorker article, “Small Change: Why the social revolution will not be tweeted.”: “The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend and that signing up for a donor registry in Silicon Valley today is activism in the same sense as sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960.”
I tweeted about this (completely incorrect) perception that day, saying, “Gladwell: ‘The evangelists of social media…seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend’ Well, do you?” No, I did not expect answers; probably a bad rhetorical question. But fortunately later that day I found a nice quote on the No Pun Intended blog in response to Gladwell’s assertion, which I also tweeted because it expressed my personal experience with Facebook: “To M. Gladwell: ‘Nobody who actually uses Facebook…thinks a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend.’”
Now before I make you sick of me for talking about my tweeting, let me get this in. Almost no one who “actually uses” Facebook – and there are now more than 500 million active users who spend over 700 billion minutes per month on the site – confuses “Friend” with friend. And if they do, it is not because of Facebook but due to some other cause.
How do I know this? Well, I don’t, in the sense of knowledge based on proof with data, scientific inquiry, survey data, or anything else. I “know” it because I see how the 108 friends I have use it: most post irregularly, some often, some every day; some post personal info, some their location, trip plans, dinner plans; some are companies or sites that I want to follow. I use it because I like to see what other people are thinking and doing. I do get to communicate with people I never or almost never see or even talk to, including relatives. I keep up with people who have moved on to other companies, some of whom I never actually “met” because we worked in a virtual company.
As for Facebook’s ability to mobilize people to do things in the real world, a local group set up a Facebook page to announce a fundraiser for a friend who has cancer; it is sold out, not necessarily because of Facebook but Facebook sure made it easier to communicate the event and information about how to buy tickets and participate in a silent auction.
I wondered last night what my life would be like without Facebook and my first thought was “thinner.” Facebook enhances my personal life but does not substitute for real interactions with real people in real time over real beers watching real sports events or riding real motorcycles fast over real “Blue Highways” (one of my favorite books). Nothing does that for most, if not the vast majority, of people who belong to Facebook. The fact that there is a pretty widespread perception – often based on no or little real Facebook experience – that Facebook is the same thing as life for its members is disheartening to me. Right now, like it or not, detractors, approximately 7.25% of the world’s population seem to like Facebook. That data says something about its popularity but also the perception of its value.
Facebook may well be replaced someday or jump the shark. Right now, neither event is even on the horizon, despite the misperceptions of some observers about its extrinsic value.
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