Thursday, 1 May 2008

When Social Networks become a Nuisance

Posted by: Ian Angell

I’ve just logged off Facebook, having wasted nearly forty-five minutes. There were 27 requests asking to be my friend, but I only knew about half of them. I can’t imagine why the other half would want to be my friends.

There were stupid virtual gifts, offers of a virtual knighthood, adverts for stuff I wouldn’t want in a million years, tedious facile applications and surveys (do I really care what proportion of the brain-dead prefer Pepsi to Coke?). I’ve been shown lists of favourite books, and what passes for music: bands with daft names like Flatulent Freddie and the Snot Nosed Psychopaths droning some tuneless ditty.

Personally, I use Facebook as a private personal network. During the odd break I like to find out how ex-students are getting on with their lives. I’m looking for the odd short message telling me of how their lives/careers are progressing – the odd photo of their families or on vacation is fun. It’s perfectly OK to ask me for a reference (although strangely they seem only come in LinkedIn, not Facebook!) I am not interested in friends of friends; one degree of separation is as far as I want to travel. {The next 2 sentences were added after I read the comment from Govind.} One aspect of social networks that is often forgotten is exclusivity. Far from inviting everybody in, many network members want to keep everyone else out - and why not?

Yet most of what I see are lists of superficial facts, invites to parties (where they play the junk music), adolescent ‘I hate Manchester United’ jibes shared with the world, and facile comments about ‘what I’m feeling now!’ The scale of garbage postings seems to be increasing exponentially. Don’t people realise that this drivel is being read by HR departments – postings say far more about you than your CV ever does.

How do we filter out this overload? It seems we’ve lost track of what the network is for. If we’re not careful we’ll throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’m already seeing a sharp rise in postings like ‘X is withdrawing from Facebook until further notice.’ This is only to be expected when social networks become a nuisance.


Govind said...

So true. Its obvious that the social networking agenda is moving away from serving the masses towards the catering to the more exclusive communities. Facebook Orkut and LinkedIn provide more or less the same set of tools from a technology perspective. However they are perceived in different ways by the user groups- One for dating the second for messaging the the third for professional networking (although all three do support each others functionalities)

I firmly believe that LinkedIn is also losing its exclusivity. I am not interested in meeting construction engineers or architects amongst many others. I wouldnt be surprised if LinkedIn would soon start a specific communities like LinkedIn- Telecom, LinkedIn- Software etc under the umbrella of professional networking and collaborative communities.

This is why, I believe my research on Medical Peer Networks in UK would find relative success when it gets implemented (atleast for the next 3 years)- because it keeps everyone except doctors out !!!

Conrad Chau said...

One thing with Facebook which I have started using a year ago was based on the fact of its exclusivity - and simply for my pictures sharing during my exchange studies in France. However, with my present development, Facebook has developped itself to a giant containing personal information of people. Evil as it may get, people outside Facebook may use all the information they can get from Facebook and make a nuisance with it. The time has come for all of us to reconsider annoymity and self-exposure in the Internet. While the annoymity still exist in the Internet, one should turn the question over and ask how much are we supposed? The Chinese government has developed the fucntion of the internet in another way but can it work?

Let's just see how Facebook will move on and hope that everything drives along well. (very Chinese in what I am saying here...)

Tim Hannigan said...

Exclusivity is obviously quite important to maintaining trust and credibility between groups of people. Niche social networks seem like the obvious next step (certainly wouldn't be considered novel).

However, openness does have it's benefits: innovation often occurs when contexts are mixed.
As social beings, we simultaneously exist across several social categories and networks. With this is mind, what happens when you start getting separate invitations for 25 different niche social networking sites? The more you split the niche up, the more the network effect diminishes.
Also, I hate having to remember 25 different logins :)

Ian Angell and Ash Khanna said...

Tim makes a good point. But convenience has to be balanced against annoyance. If Facebook ends up as a voyeurs paradise then something has to give.

Does anyone have any information about stalking vis a vis Facebook?

Tim Hannigan said...

I don't know if this is the best forum to share links, but this one is relevant:

"Friends May Be the Best Guide Through the Noise"

vase said...

Even that facebook is designed SPECIFICALLY to map social relations between individuals, it still needs some 'magic that works on the primitive in us all' as its glue. In a very unscientific way, that is to say you have all your friends competing to be Pop Idol in front of you all day long (yes the reverse makes you the hopeful star), having all sorts of useless 'shinny' and 'new' distractions to keep you entertained and engaged (heyyy come join my 'I like salad' group) all the while a 24 year old shepherd is trying to map and breed his herd and maximise profit per head. Funny thing is that it just works great, but hey guess what makes the shepherd a shepherd.... Magic! .....oh yes some of those woolly things too.

On the other hand, do we really need to keep in touch with everybody all the time? You know, just in case that when we actually meet in person for a meal once every 10 years we know what the preferences of our mates are in case they have went to the toilet exactly when the waiter showed up to take the order. Of course not, its all about vanity, the 'friends' counter, and SPYING ON EACH OTHER. Surely we don't need a universal repository of all the world's human relations to keep in touch. Oh and they sure do some math on those relations...oh my...NUMBERS.