Ever feel like the Internet has become void of significant social dialog?
That would be because you are correct. And by “the Internet” I mean “Facebook.”
It’s not so much a social networking site as it is a tool built for pushing (and absorbing) corporate media.
For one, if you’d like to network and actually try to get to know someone, you need to check out their profile. However, there you’ll find absolutely nothing about who they are unless you click their Info tab and then scroll through hundreds of “Liked” products to get to the very bottom of the page. If you’re lucky, the person has actually filled out the information down there (though I don’t know why they would–no one goes there).
Facebook once allowed you to put a few lines of text off to the left where you could tell people about yourself but they’ve taken that away, too. Apparently a few lines of text pointing Web surfers to someone’s Web site (where they can actually talk about themselves) were cutting too far into Facebook’s success at directing people toward merchandise.
Of course, if you’re on Facebook, chances are you’re not looking at people’s profiles. You’re staring at something called a “Feed” (an obviously insulting term by the way).
The Feed is a mechanism for Facebook to decide who you get to pay attention to. Forget it if you absolutely love every status update your friend Happy McSlapperstein posts. Facebook will show you a few of those and mix them with a side of irrelevance. And if you don’t keep “Liking” Happy’s posts, then three months later, you’ll wonder if Happy is dead because you haven’t seen any new posts from your dear friend lately (a quick study of their Wall will reveal they have always been there doing their thing; Facebook has just decided you don’t like them enough).
It doesn’t really matter, though, that you never see Happy’s posts, because even if you had seen one, and commented on it, and developed a quick witty banter with Happy, and eventually solved the world’s energy crisis, it wouldn’t matter. After a few hours, that post disappears into the ether, never to be seen by a human soul ever again.
Status updates aren’t searchable or archived in any useful way, so they’re essentially a new form of a mandala sand painting. Go ahead and have a meaningful conversation there, but it will be gone in hours. Then, you’ll just have to rely on your memory to carry the development of all human knowledge, just like people did before literacy caught on. With Facebook, you get to relive the dark ages…online!
So…how does Facebook or the next big social networking site (Google+ perhaps?) resolve these issues?
- Give users more control over the presentation of their profile.
- Give users the ability to create user-created content that is visible (or even dominant) from their profile.
- Encourage dialog that can be referenced and expanded on (such as through blogs or prominent forums).
- Give users control over who they want to pay attention to (through blog subscriptions or other mechanisms).
Wait a minute…I’ve just described the formula for MySpace around the year 2006.
And that’s not a mistake, because truthfully MySpace was a powerful and successful social networking site. Remember when people were all excited about user-generated content and about people of all types having increasingly powerful voices on the Internet? That was because of MySpace.
MySpace was a true social networking site, and a game changer. Facebook has delivered the game back to the corporations.
Look at it this way: People ended up meeting other people through MySpace. In contrast, Facebook is a site where people go to friend each other after they already know each other in real life.
People I’ve met through MySpace before meeting in person: 46.
People I’ve met through Facebook before meeting in person: 9.