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?


Susan Scrupski said...

Hi Simon. I read your post with interest. I admit, I am sometimes silly with Facebook, but as a business professional and not a college student (a grandmother, actually!) I am finding it very useful. I happen to see, for instance, you are a friend of David Terrar, who is also my friend. David and I are in a blogger group where I recently wrote this note: "Facebook is
engaging. I'm not interested in what people have done, more
interested in who they are. Facebook tells me that and more. With some of the new applications coming online with Facebook, I am
enjoying a rich user interface layered onto my life as a result of the interesting things my "friends" are doing, seeing, reading, thinking, visiting, talking about... and generally living their lives. Where LinkedIn is black & white, Facebook is color, taste, and texture." I hope this feedback helps. AND, feel free to add me as a friend. Even though I am a little sophomoric at times... ;-)

Simon Carswell said...

Susan, I suppose the speed of your comment (about an hour after I posted!) is as a result of finding my blog link on Facebook?! Perhaps that in itself weakens my anti-Facebook argument (if it can be called that). I now feel like a wallflower at a party who's just been asked to dance ;-)

I know I can't afford to ignore the Facebook phenomenon, actually, and the opening up of the API could lead to some intriguing functionality.

Matt Moore said...

Simon - Many many people read The Sun. It meets a need. And as for the content being "dross", that's what our lives are made of 90% of the time. I write more shopping lists than prize-winning novels.

There is nothing wrong with being a wallflower - but dissing those making fools of themselves on the dancefloor is a bit pointless.

Simon Carswell said...

Matt, I sense that you think the motive behind my post is elitism. That isn't the case. The point I was trying to make - and I should have finished it off - is that the way people spend their time on Facebook and MySpace is not conducive to convincing sceptical senior managers that social networking software is the solution to their internal communication problems. They are likely to take one look, conclude that 'we don't want that sort of thing in this company' and throw out the whole of the Enterprise 2.0 concept in the process.