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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Twittering Facebook

It has now been about nine months since I joined the tens of millions on Facebook, and the millions on Twitter. Recently I noticed that I now have over 300 "friends" on Facebook. I have to confess that I actually gave up on Twitter and even deleted my profile there, just before Thanksgiving. (Honestly, it was the lamest waste of time I've seen in some time!)

But I'm finding that Facebook poses an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, I've connected with former colleagues, schoolmates, long-lost relatives and even a couple of old girl friends. I even connected with someone I'd not heard from in about 27 years and thought was long dead! So there is definitely a power in Facebook that's unrivaled in modern culture. No matter who you are, I'm convinced there are people you know on Facebook.

Now the interesting thing I'm noticing lately is the intersection of Twitter and Facebook. People are Twittering stuff and referring to it on Facebook. They'll post a message on Facebook and tell people to go to their Twitter profile to see something. (Why not just post it on Facebook?) When I was on Twitter I don't recall seeing people ask me to go check their Facebook wall. So I'm trying to understand how the two complement each other in practical terms. From my perspective, it seems that Facebook has got everything Twitter offers ... and a whole lot more.

But there are rebels. Some of them are even on Facebook. They're a bit angry about Facebook, and resent the fact that they have to be on it. Some of them refuse to get on Facebook. I tried to connect with a relative recently and was sharply rebuked for it. She informed me that we can e-mail just as easily and she only has friends on Facebook whom she doesn't e-mail with. There's a logic for you. "I'll only friend people on Facebook whom I don't talk to." Interesting.

Then there are those people on Facebook who really aren't on Facebook. Oh sure, they went on it once and set up a profile. They friended about ten people and maybe posted a profile picture. And they haven't been back since. They don't post any updates, they don't respond to any messages you send them, and they don't have any pictures depicting what's going on in their lives. So are they really on Facebook?

The really curious crowd (to me, at least) are the ones on Facebook who seem to be on there several times a day, at all hours of the day. They're not saying much, and most of them are just playing Farmville or Mafia Wars (Farmville seems to be the most popular). I'm glad they enjoy it. But I have to admit I get annoyed when I get messages asking me to help them find a "little lost reindeer" (that doesn't exist) on their farm (which doesn't exist). Apparently these people are having a blast playing these games on Facebook though. More power to them.

Lately I've been questioning the value of Facebook. Now that I've found the approximately 300 people whose names I can remember in life --- it seems to be losing its luster. It was interesting when I was finding and connecting with people I thought were dead. Without new finds every day or so, not so much then.

And the people I'm connected to on Facebook? Hardly talk to any of them. One guy I hadn't seen since 1976. I wrote and told him a bit about me and my life. Then I asked him to tell me a bit about him and his life. Is he married? Kids? Career? Health? Interesting hobbies? As I eagerly awaited his response, I got his invitation to play Mafia Wars. I ignored it (officially). After a while, I wrote him again and said, "No, really want to know you again. Please write back." His response? "Let's play mafia wars together."

So the thing is that the people I'm friends with on Facebook are really not my friends. In fact most of my true friends in life aren't connecting with me there anyway. There are people I like whom I can keep up with ... if they post updates and pictures. But the rest don't seem to have any value. Friending people on Facebook starts to feel like collecting baseball cards (except you are acquainted with most of the players).

I think I'm going to stick with Facebook for now. But I am starting to wonder if the value proposition isn't going to appear for some of us. It's a bit like having a TV but not watching it. Facebook might have 350 million active profiles, but they can't convince me that they've got 350 million users.

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