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Jul 9, 2008

Rants & Raves: Facebook = 0 - (Time + Productivity)

Facebook is just another social experiment to add to the likes of Friendster, MySpace, YouTube, etc. Many of my friends, colleagues, and family members urged me to get on... "It's the medium of the future, man!" I wouldn't disagree with this statement, as there has been an explosion of social networking sites to prove the importance of this medium; but Facebook really led me to ponder its real purpose.

I've had an account on Facebook for several months now and let me tell you that the initial fascination I had with it faded away fast. It's not that the website is unimpressive or a total waste of time, it's just that it is super-saturated with all these so-called 'social applications' that suck the life out of your productive, even leisure time.

Lame applications

You get:
  • poked,
  • super-poked,
  • hugged,
  • bumper stickered to death,
  • requests to see how much you're worth (or your photo at least), etc.
When you're "found" by a bunch of your friends/family/colleagues/old school mates, these applications are inevitable! I remember the first time I logged on, I already had 20 friend requests and a bunch of "gifts" from various people... I was surprised. Yes, I was also flattered at first.

I also enjoyed re-connecting with people from my past and catching up through online games of scrabble, or sharing photos and stories. I was also flattered that many of my buddies labeled me as 'most successful', 'hottest', or valued my photo's initial net worth over $100K.

Then, I got myself sucked into those competitive applications... applications that heckled you to join and provide them with access to all of your profile information. I would get messages like, "Stevie just exceeded his personal best at Scramble... think you can beat him", or, "Julie got voted Most Popular by her Top Friends... see how you rank." Just then, I was transported back into time to the halls of my Freshman year in high school - a time when I really did give a damn of what people thought of me; a time when I was too self-conscious to even speak out loud... and a time when petty little things such as not being invited to some 'cool' kid's party labeled you an outcast or nerd.

I disliked and forgot those times... just like I disliked not getting a bumper sticker or cyber-drink when someone else did. Sometimes the lame applications promote exclusivity and broadcast it to your entire network.

So why spend time on a social platform that does just that?

Useful applications

Sure, there are a good number of resources connected to Facebook as well, such as:
  • groups for new parents,
  • groups for food and wine enthusiasts,
  • car enthusiasts,
  • and other networking groups.
These resources could provide you with exposure and a good network of people, if you are starting up your own business or merely looking to stay on top of the latest trends.

There are also a few cool applications like:
  • "Places I've visited", sponsored by TripAdvisor, where I can visually keep track of where I have been or where my friends have been.
  • Yelp, an Facebook extension of the original website, where I can upload my latest restaurant reviews and extend those reviews to my Facebook network.
  • And, "Business Cards", an application that enables you to personalize a business card and attach it to your messages (for self-promotion and networking).
So, there can be a useful and somewhat novel side to Facebook.

On Socializing

Facebook however, is not an ideal substitute for the telephone and/or face-to-face interaction. But for some busy, working, parents like me and my wife, Facebook can be a great way to keep in touch to an extent.

The overbearing fact is, because you get the surreal feeling that you know where your friends are and what they are doing, you may treat a FB notification (e.g. poke, post, tag, etc.) as a false sense of personal interaction. This is unhealthy and detrimental to any relationships that you worked hard to establish (I am totally guilty of this...).

Also remember, that Facebook makes it difficult to interact with just those people with whom you actually know or care about. Other people WILL find you. Yes, this includes people who you may not want to connect with; in which case FB becomes a great way to invite stalkers into your life.

You know that weird trench-coat wearing kid always sitting in the back of the classroom or hanging out under the bleachers in the gym, or that freaky co-worker from your previous job that used to hang around you like a parasite? They WILL find you... unless of course you choose not to publish your school, real name, places of employment, associations, etc. In which case... no one will find you and then... what's the point?

Guilt may keep you from declining that 'friend request' from a person that you do not really know and/or who doesn't really know you. Why anyone other than a friend or associate would want to be on your friends list still puzzles me, but it happens. And best of luck if a nasty manager from your job 'befriends you'...

Some people seem anxious when their Friends list is hovering below 20 or so, thus compensating by adding and requesting friendships from you to the newspaper delivery guy.

Don't get me wrong though... there are many people from the past, with whom I was pleasantly surprised to receive a friend request from. And it's okay to just send along a casual, "What's going on with you... where have you been," message and periodically share updates. But what really annoys me is when someone requests you as a friend, and then never responds to your messages... I mean, what's the point???

Did you just want to peek into my life for gossip's sake? These people... I quickly remove from my Friend's list... two tears in a bucket (as one of my good buddies always says).

Overall the appeal of Facebook is dependent on your preference of use, but here are the pros and cons as I see them:

  • Social Networking for start-up business owners and bloggers has high potential
  • Re-connecting with old friends and keeping in touch with those far away is nice.
  • The knowledge base shared on Facebook is valuable if you can find what you're looking for.
  • If you're an old fart, you're 'hip factor' may be increased by a few points, since you can say that you are on Facebook.
  • Stupid applications are abundant and make you feel obliged to honor a friend's challenge or invitation. Plus, what are programmers really doing with the profile information you grant them access to?
  • Friends may embarrass you... if you're not careful and diligent to check on your daily notifications, your 'friends' may post unappealing or inappropriate pictures that include you, or may make some idiotic comment that may incriminate you and air out your dirty laundry.
  • Employers who have a presence on Facebook make it less fun for those employed... Big Brother is watching!
  • You may attract stalkers if you're not careful.
  • And finally, your productive time will be ultimately wasted if you're sucked into the hype (I speak/write from experience!).
Is Facebook all that and a bag of chips? Personally, I think not. Until more discipline goes around limiting applications to only the most useful, Facebook seems like just another venue for procrastination.


Aubrey White said...

Yes, I agree. I think I've had my profile up on Facebook for quite some time now and rarely ever visit it. It was fine when they opened it exclusively for college students, because when I was in college I wanted to separate myself from rotten high schoolers. Now I've lost complete interest in it because I'd rather be networking with students from my university than look at high school boobs.

Metro Dream Master said...

Thanks for the post! You said it right on... During the college years, people usually reinvent themselves, learning from the experiences (mostly negative) that occurred in highschool. Sometimes it is good to feel grounded and recognize where it is we come from, but not if those strong pangs of memory start to affect our present positive outlook. Ever see the movie,"Just Friends" with Ryan Reynolds? There are plenty of people who don't want to look back, while others continue to live in the past...