Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Mixed feelings about social networking sites

Many, many people seem to be signing up with social networking sites - LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Ning, etc at the moment.  I've done so myself.  For some reason, though, I can't really get excited about them in the way that some people seem to.  All this 'poking' and sending virtual presents just seems, well, childish.  Not that I'm above being childish, as some of my posts on my motorcyclists forum of choice will testify.  So I'm actually struggling to put my finger on what it is exactly that annoys me about these sites. 
Perhaps I shouldn't lump them together.  LinkedIn is focused on professional networking and attracts more serious behaviour than Facebook or MySpace.  If it irritates me it's only in the way that 360 degree feedback used to at work: the sense that all that praise is of diminished value because everyone can find someone to say something nice about them, especially if the favour is to be returned.  No, my target is really Facebook. I'm not criticising the creators of Facebook, I just don't somehow feel inclined to join the big party that they are hosting. 
I think it has something to do with my personal history of Web 2.0 behaviour.  I've used discussion forums, mainly in connection with my passion for motorcycling, for about seven years.  I was very addicted to one in particular for some time.  Back in the autumn (fall) of 2006 I realised how blogging had taken off, how wikis were coming to prominence, how tagging was taking off, and how combining these three things and using RSS also could revolutionise knowledge-sharing within organisations.  This of course had been spotted earlier by others and dubbed Enterprise 2.0.  I started blogging on the subject and discovered a community of people doing the same.  I was, and continue to be, very impressed at the quality of the material that was posted on these blogs.  I came to feel that what Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 really meant was not only an increase in interaction and 'emergence' on the Internet and inside the forewall but an increase in maturity of use also.  Facebook has dashed that hope.  By comparison with the profession-related blogs the content is dross.  If a good blog is the Web 2.0 eqivalent of the Financial Times, Facebook is The Sun (and MySpace is the Daily Sport). 
Or maybe I'm just becoming a member of the crew of the TV programme, "Grumpy Old Men".
What do you think?