If you surf the net a lot then you will definately know about myspace, facebook and their ilk. I had a Myspace account for a while but found that it was really restrictive in what you could do visually with the page and the content that you could put up was pretty meaningless for me. There wasn’t a community spirit as I was told there was and I found the whole thing to be too big for its own boots really. It was fun looking at other peoples pages, but frankly, unless you remotely know of the person whose page your viewing, it all becomes rather drab and somewhat sinister in a voyeuristic kind of way, I found myself checking people’s pages out because I liked the look of their pic that appeared in their friends message board. SELF CONTROL ! Geez.
Facebook looked like it was going to be a different story. Nice structured layout and tools that actually do put you in contact with not only others you know directly (easiest thing to do on Facebook) but also put you in contact with others through groups based on a shared interest like The Sausage And Mash Appreciation Society for example. Up to this point Facebook really does deliver in my opinion. My issue with Facebook is the constant stream of requests that you get from others wanting you to install this application or that application. Which in itself is a nice thing because the applications are normally ways that you can use to be nice to one another on Facebook (Fantastic idea!). The trouble comes when you have a reasonable number of friends on Facebook (30ish in my case) and several of them ask you to add their latest application that THEY think is really cool and THEY want to share with you. This is how it works I know, but this means that Facebook is more of a SPAM MACHINE rather than a social networking site.
I’m reserving judgement at this point, Facebook is allowing me to keep in tentative contact with many of my previous students so its not all bad. Maybe if I had the time (made the time) to use it more often, the backlog of requests wouldn’t be so bad.
Update: October 2008
I closed my Facebook account recently. It initially felt like I was leaving all my friends and going away somewhere. I realised that this is how the people who run Facebook want you to feel. This is the emotion of addiction is it not?
I made sure that my picture warned people of my looming departure and how they could get hold of me by email. Looking back this was potentially quite dangerous. I could have ended up with masses of spam. I didn’t and the people who matter are still in contact with me. This is not to say that all of the other great people I was linked to on Facebook no longer matter, just that I have realised that Facebook is a pedestal for people. Many of whom don’t really want to know you, don’t really want to spend time with you (nevermind quality time) and are actually just collecting photos of people they once were associated with.
Thanks for the ride Facebook, I won’t be returning.