Get THEE on Facebook!

(or “The One SIMPLE REASON You Need to Be On Facebook”)

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Facebook lately, and why it is so great. Not iPhone-great, but almost Wikipedia-great: it has changed the way I use the web, and my life in the real world is richer because of it. Also, I’ve been trying to get all my friends on Facebook. So this blog post is my attempt to convince my hold-out friends (Gretchen, Kelly & Brian, Chell, Greg & Nina!) Feel free to send it to the FB holdouts you know!

THE ONE SIMPLE REASON YOU NEED TO BE ON FACEBOOK: Facebook makes 90% of your friends much more present in your life than ever before. Seriously!

ALLOW ME TO EXPLAIN:
Most of you have a set of friends that you see often: you know what they are up to, how their love lives are going, what their life is like, what movie they just saw, what they are doing this weekend. You often know what they had for breakfast. You call them, they call you, you go out with them, they come over. Things are great. This is your circle of immediate, close friends.

But all of us have friends at circles farther out in our lives. There is the set of close friends that you don’t see as often as your immediate, close friends. There is the set of close friends who live far away. And then there are the good friends who simply aren’t close friends. And so on & so on, there are circles of friends going farther and farther out. I’d imagine that 90% of my friends are in one of those outer circles.

Connecting you to these people is where Facebook really shines:

At its simplest, Facebook is a one-stop update center on all the people in your life. You check in with Facebook, and through FB’s “status updates”, you see at a glance what all your friends are up to. How they are feeling, what made them laugh or cry, what they ate and what’s on their minds. Basically, you see whatever little snippet of their lives they feel like sharing at the moment. And, if you want more than the default one sentence or so, just click on their profile and read through a sort of “stream of existence” of their lives. It’s a good thing. This allows you to keep up with many people that you don’t interact with as often as you’d like, and it allows them to keep with you. I love this.

But even cooler than this this relatively simple view into your friends’ lives is the fact that Facebook fosters interaction with these friends on all scales from simply voyeuristic (looking at Tom’s pictures from his trip to Africa) to electronic interaction (“Hey Tom, nice pictures – what was your favorite animal from your safari?”) to the physical (“Hey, I didn’t know you’re were going to that lecture about African megafauna – me too! Let’s meet up there!”). For the majority of my friends, this has allowed me to stay more in touch and do more stuff with more of them than ever before. I really really love this.

So that is the big reason: Facebook makes your interactions with your non-immediate friends much much richer. So sign up already (& if you are a friend of mine, go ahead and friend me so I can start keeping tabs on you! 🙂 If you are being forwarded this by a friend, please do us all a favor and sign up already. Networks get better and better the more people that are on them. We miss you guys!

Love
‘deep

.ps
There are a LOT of other reasons FB is great that I didn’t hit on, just because this post is too big for its target audience as it is, but here some of them are in brief:

  • Facebook is most people’s blog (ok, micro-blog)

    This is a slightly different ramification of the “status update”: Most people should NOT have blogs and don’t 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they don’t have interesting lives, but rather, how many people have the time AND the interest AND the ability to write compellingly? It’s a small fraction.

    On the other hand, most everyone has simple tidbits from their lives that would be interesting to you and can (and usually will) jot them down. Facebook is great at this & aggregates all of your friends’ updates on your main page, so you don’t have to check all over the interwebs. Just log on. In fact I think for many of us, FB has rapidly become one of the first things we do when we get online. It’s all about checkin’ in & seein’ what’s up.

  • Facebook is the new <Insert Web Service here>

    For a variety of reasons, Facebook is quickly supplanting a remarkable set of web & internet services:

    • Facebook is the new Evite
    • Facebook is your friends’ Flickr
    • Facebook is your friends’ Digg (?) a good web clipping service
    • Facebook is your friends’ YouTube
    • Facebook is your school’s alumni newsletter
    • Facebook is a decent chat application, that all your FB friends are already on
    • Facebook is a decent mail service, without the SPAM

    Also I should note, that FB is better for many things than Twitter, though the status updates are similar. The one-stop nature of it, and the fact that it has (& probably always will have) a larger number of users than Twitter is a big deal.

  • Facebook is not Friendster or MySpace.

    After the slow-as-molasses debacle of Friendster, and the painful ugly-stick that was MySpace, I had to be dragged to Facebook too. But the implementation details make it far more pleasant then either of those ever were and it’s larger network effect* makes it much much much more useful than either of those services ever were. Saying “well, they are all social networks” is like saying a Walkman is the same thing as an iPod.

  • FaceBook comes in handy for suprising things…

    There are a couple of seemingly minor things that make FB compelling as well:

    The most obvious is birthdays. FB keeps a little handy list on your main page of upcoming and current birthdays. And on your birthday, you get flooded with the birthday love from your friends. It’s niiiiiice.

    Another surprise is breakups. I dread having to let everyone know that a relationship hasn’t worked out. But if you choose to mark yourself in a relationship and choose to unmark yourself when it ends, FB subtly lets all your friends know. During my last breakup, I thought it was going to be horrible, but in fact, it saved a lot of the awkward “So how’s your GF” questions and also I got a lot of really touching notes from my peeps. Either way it is optional, but I was surprised at how worthwhile I found it. And as an aside, there is always the “Is she still dating that loser? No? Really? Excellent! POUNCE!” effect 🙂

* The network effect is the idea that the value of a network increases dramatically the more users are on it. And near as I can tell FB is HUGE – much bigger than Friendster or MySpace ever were.

8 thoughts on “Get THEE on Facebook!

  1. hehe — i was on 6 degrees (aka facebook ’98), orkut, friendster… and i swore i’d never join another one of these things until someone (google?) wrote the “unified social networking import tool” or better, the “social networking meta application” — so i can befriend someone in all of the social networking sites at once with a single click.

    then i met my biological family. they’re all on myspace and were incredulous that i was “into computers” but had no myspace page. so i caved in to get to know them better. and now i have like 100+ friends in myspace. then the kuslers discovered it… now it’s my one-stop shopping for keeping in touch with my entire family and a subset of my friends (people who apparently didn’t get the memo that myspace isn’t cool).

    and for all of the reasons you listed, i’ve begrudgingly come to like myspace. i love knowing what my “new” family is up to and i love that it’s let me stay in touch with the daily lives of the family and friends i already have.

    but fear not, once the economy rebounds i’ll re-hire my personal assistant and then “i” will have plenty of time for facebook!

    until then, my flickr rss:
    http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?id=41808955@N00&lang=en-us&format=rss_200

    myspace:
    http://www.myspace.com/mrrmy

    : b

    ps.
    ok shhh! don’t tell anyone, but i actually DO have a facebook account. and a twitter account. and a blogger account. and (insert meme of the month here) i’m just not comfortable being the complete luddite that kelly is. so i join these things, figure out how to use them so i don’t seem out of touch, and then pretty much never use them again 🙂 i have zero friends in facebook, for example…

    pps.
    i’m convinced that 90% of twitter users are middle aged people and last-millenium companies (CNN, sfgate, etc) that jumped onto the twitter bandwagon in a desperate attempt to seem hip. like none of my 13-21 year old friends or relatives gives a flying feck about twitter. “it’s for old people”

  2. i am sending to holdouts now. thank you for writing what i’ve had to say to people on my PHONE for a few months now.

  3. Wow – Greg. Thanks for the link. I finally finished reading the article.

    Briefly, I think the guy is way off base in lots of important particulars about how FB is used, perhaps correct in his assessment of the owners of FB’s politics but it is mostly irrelevant & points out fairly generic critiques of modern web-enabled capitalistic society, but ones that we have already had to deal with (google personalized ads) and negotiate our own levels of comfort with.

    The biggest thing he misses is my point that FB enhances actual human relationships that I have and made my real physical world better for it. His cries of “my friendships have been commoditized” rings pretty false to me. And I’d suspect to anyone who has actually used FB for a little while.

    I’m always excited about technologies that make real life better especially connections with my fellow humans, and for me, FB does that very very well. But to each their own…..

    much love and respect
    ‘deep

  4. I agree that FB can be very useful and sometimes fun, and sometimes a sirenlike time-suck.

    My biggest complaint is the apps, gifts, groups and other nonsense that are constantly being thrown at you — “Your friends think yer dum. Prove them wrong by taking this ridiculous quiz while you give us permission to download your firstborn.”

    The most unexpected aspect of FB for me has been the sociological behavior it has illuminated/engendered. I wasn’t sure what to think when all these college classmates that I hardly knew wanted to be my friend. Were they just collecting friends to reassure themselves about how popular they are (I’d seen that on MySpace)? Were they hoping to see that I’d gotten fatter than they had? Were they actually interested in what I was doing? Maybe this person even had had a secret “she’s such a cool girl” crush on me (I was kind of an in-yer-face punk queen back in the day.)

    I had a hard time deciding whether to accept all requests or just those from people I actually had some kind of acquaintanceship with (more than just knowing someone’s name). The latter was my inclination, but of course I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

    When my first high school friend found me (ugh), the same thing happened with even more people that I really didn’t know (some I didn’t even know their name after much memory searching). I mean I hadn’t seen or thought about most of these people in 25 years! Plus there was the added ick of thinking about high school while I tried to decide what to do about these requests. Even the band teacher asked to be my friend (I wasn’t friendly with him at all in school so that was just too weird and kinda sad) — I hope I didn’t hurt his feelings when I declined.

    I also got a request from my first boyfriend (with whom there had been much drama; I ultimately declined the friend request, but things sort of worked out in that I decided to answer his FB message, he apologized, and I accepted).

    In sum, be prepared for some possible emotional weirdness when you put stuff out there for public consumption under your real name. People you hoped to leave in the past, and consequently the you that you left in the past, might find you. But you may also reconnect at least at some level with people you never intended to leave behind.

    Erin

  5. oh, apologies, if I didn’t make it clear, that “cool girl crush” theory was supposed to be humor … forgot the emoticon

  6. Nice work Erin 🙂

    I was originally going to add this, but the post seemed to long:

    To be sure Facebook has its problems. Here are a few:

    • Like most social networks, FB has no good way to mark someone as an acquaintance. I really, really hate being asked to say someone is my friend when I really don’t know them. And Facebook doesn’t really help this problem much. I’ve taken to being relatively harsh about accepting friend requests from people. Pretty much, if I haven’t had a real conversation with you that I’ve enjoyed, I won’t take your friend request. But it is always socially awkward. Booo.

      This could be fixed with tiered friendships. Facebook has a “Limited Profile” group you can add friends to that may help, but I haven’t explored it.

    • FB has some weird interface stuff whose point is not immediately obvious: Like “Home” vs “Amandeep Jawa” or “Wall to Wall” v “Write on Wall” – I think I know the difference between these options, but they could explain with a tool tip or something.
    • I really don’t understand all the weird little gifts and requests that you get. And if there are useful ones, they get lost in the noise. I don’t want a vampire bite invite, or a piece of flair or a gangster war invitation.
  7. yeah and besides, maybe my own 2.0 usage is atypical… none of my avatars have my real name; you have to know who i am already to know me in twitter, IM, etc. But on the other hand, I am highly findable on Google. so that means I can be contacted by anyone who wants to go to the effort of googling me, but my inner/semi-private interactions are not findable that way (except by the extremely intrepid — and even then, just part of the package). that’s the way i like it. when it comes to friends, it’s quality not quantity i look for.

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