Saturday, May 14, 2011

Facebook: few observations

I registered this blog quite a while ago, but never really found the time to regularly post on it. (Of course, the lack of talent to write interesting and useful information is the real reason why thousands of blogs, including this one, have gone stale on the Internet. Lets not publicize that). I created my Facebook account last year. I know I'm late to the party, but hey, better late than never, right?

With great frenzy, I added as many friends as possible. The reason was two-fold; one, it was a popularity contest. I wanted to have more friends than my friends! It was the web 2.0 (or is it 3.0 now?) version of "mine is bigger than yours". I added everyone in my family, close friends, distant friends, faint acquaintances from my childhood and the complete strangers who smiled at me while passing in the office hallway. Second, I didn't want to miss out on a networking opportunity. I didn't want to be less connected than my friends! What if I lose my job? These friends would help me get one. What if I wanted to start my own business? These friends would provide me with leads! Friends would provide me with handyman advice, travel tips. Friends would give me this and tell me that. They would help me get ahead!

The time tested axiom that friendship is more about quality than quantity was lost on me. At first, I was hooked on to a bunch of games. I logged in to Facebook whenever time permitted and raced around, hunted treasures and fought the mafia until my fingers ached. But over a period of time, I slowly started disengaging from Facebook, not only because I didn't have the time to read the deluge of status updates, (not to mention the symptoms of carpal-tunnel), but most of the status updates were useless and some of them were actually irritating.

Many of the people I see on Facebook are like me, not very creative. Because they are on Facebook, they want to write something clever. I routinely see status updates like "sleepless in seattle", "is it friday yet?", or "someone has got the case of mondays" or "back to back meetings". Seriously people, if you cannot come up with a pithy quote or a witty sentence, it is perfectly alright to not write anything!

Apparently one disadvantage I noticed is that we have all of our friends and relatives in there. Work friends, school friends, neighbors, close relatives, distant relatives and everyone else in one big group. Facebook does allow the creation of private groups, but I highly doubt that people are using it. The reason being that almost all of the messages posted by my friends are a common denominator, i.e., people post only those messages that are acceptable to every one of their friends. Sometimes the office politics spills over and on other occassions, I have seen people express their personal problems or insecurities.

Facebook is definitely a great way to keep in touch with the "social circle", even if there is nothing to say, saying something commonplace like "great weather today", will keep us in our friends' memories. Probably that is why people indulge in meaningless smalltalk, knowing fully well it has become a necessary evil. One good thing I noticed is that Facebook is a convenient way to share photos and videos with a large group of people.

Feature request to Facebook: Is there a way to separate messages based on the usefulness of the information. For e.g., if my friend says "i'm at the xyz restaurant", I dont want to see it, but if he says "I went to xyz restaurant, but it was closed. what a bummer", I want to see it, because the second message has more useful information than the first. I believe we will eventually get there.

Update May 26th 2011: I came across this blog post by Dave Pell, very similar, but from a publisher's view point: (Note: I removed the "visitors" counter and "followers" gadget from the blog after reading this post !)

Update June 28th 2011: Google+ project released in limited beta, which contains the concept of "Circles" to alleviate the "common denominator" problem I mention above.

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