Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why I am Still on Facebook

Facebook sucks. And yet, I can't bring myself to terminate my account. It has a few essential features that I just could not do without because of its dominant position as today's preeminent social platform. Like the AOL of yesteryear, everyone else uses it (a bit too much) and expects you to use it to communicate with them. These few communication and sharing features are the site's strengths. Facebook counts on users sticking around in order to use these features regardless of how many ads they plaster on their pages or how many privacy violations they can rack up. Facebook's flaws are outweighed by its utility, which is why I haven't quit Facebook... yet.

Facebook's best feature is what it started out as: a directory of contact information. The average person does not have the time, skill, interest or money to register a domain name, set up a personal web page and push it to the top of Google's index for searches against his name. A social networking page is a much more convenient way to disseminate contact information. Facebook is the best solution for this because it shares contact information only with people of which the person approves. This arrangement makes many more comfortable than if they had shared their contact information on a public site such as MySpace. As Facebook also started out as a college network about the time that I was in college, it is the platform of choice of virtually all the people I would desire to contact. Most of the time, the aggregate contact information for someone just starting their professional life is not available anywhere else. I can not count the number of times when I quickly needed to contact somebody, only to realize that I did not have her AIM screen name, email address, phone number, etc and fetched the information off Facebook.

The other killer feature of Facebook is photo sharing, which is why it is now the largest photo sharing site in the United States with over a billion pictures. If I were to withdraw from Facebook, I would no longer have access to my friends' photos and they would no longer have access to mine. Of course, I could always migrate all of my pictures to Flickr or some other site and then point all my friends there. But is it really worth the time and effort to do that, knowing that Facebook already has a great framework for doing this that my friends and I currently use? Again, Facebook's privacy controls are also an important feature: if I transitioned to another platform, I would need to re-implement the privacy controls there (assuming they were even supported!). Additionally, all of the tag data and comments that Facebook supports would be lost in translation.

And let us not forget the networking part of social networking. Facebook does provide opportunities to network, in the business sense. [A] It's easier to approach a person if he looks familiar, you have some background on him and you can draw from a number of topics of conversation. Also, even if the only contact two people have is seeing each others' name go by on their respective News Feeds and having the other's face pop up once in a while on sample friend lists, that connection is sufficient to leave a lasting impression on the subconscious mind. [B] And requesting someone to be a friend on Facebook can be sometimes interpreted as a digital 'good meeting you' compliment. In spite of all this, I believe the networking aspect of Facebook to be a relatively minor incentive for staying on the site.

So photos and contact information are really the only two things that keep me from ending my adventures with Facebook. For the time being, it seems that I'm just going to have to swallow my pride, eat my words and keep using the site.


[A] "Expanding one's social network or sphere of influence by initiating mutually advantageous new relationships with people." (link)

[B] I didn't come up with this theory, my friend Monique did.

No comments: