Social Network’s will never be everything to everyone.
As readers of this blog do or don’t know, I am a recent graduate of NYU’s undergrad business school. I had a Facebook account since May 2004, and I resisted as long as I could. At first I was a member of rebels that would make snide remarks toward the sheep that spent hours a day stalking cute boys and gals from class. Much like my battle against everything AOL in my teens, it was futile. Surely but shortly our ranks began to dwindle. Then one night I decided to check out what the fuss was all about, logged on, and never looked back; however, I still employed a rule that I would never actively friend people to make myself appear popular.
The world I entered was clean and effective. I am extremely interested in interface design and the gaudy, distasteful profiles on Xanga and Myspace kept me far away. Facebook was different. It was a place to hang out with people that mattered to me: REAL friends, long lost friends, and that cute girl from Econ. In our walled garden with the college students only sign prominently displayed, we felt free. We all posted real information, pictures from the weekend’s debauchery, our entire class schedules, phone numbers, birth dates, etc. In retrospect it was probably a stupid thing to do, but who really cared since only our peers had access.
The first dilution of the user base occurred in September of 2005 when the doors were opened to high school students. After an initial uproar we gave in, and said what the hell, they are students too and college students could keep in touch with siblings and younger acquaintances. However, rumors start to surface about companies hiring students to conduct background checks on potential employees. The open world began to crumble. A number of people stripped down personal info, and made their profile private: For Friend’s Eyes Only. However, even after the censoring wave subsided, there was still a level of distrust permeating the network as most of one’s friends were acquaintances at best… Would they betray you?
As the months turned into years Facebook became ever more integrated into our lives. Entire relationships could be consummated and destroyed based on a few wallposts. Checking out the parties your friends were attending became a Friday night routine. Then it came. One day we logged on and everything we did was revealed in a tabloid-like fashion on the News Feed. Boyfriends now had to explain late night ‘pokes’ from the opposite sex, and changes in relationship status spread like wildfire. Again, we revolted. However, lacking the constitution of our parents college generation we rolled over again as a few privacy concession were made.
We adapted to this new transparent world, but nothing could have prepared us for the biggest betrayal yet. Facebook opened its doors to everyone as they sought out fresh pastures to increase traffic. Soon afterward I began fielding invitations from professional friends. This was the end of innocence. My profile pic was quickly swapped out for a far more conservative one, EVERYTHING became private, and I had to edit various unsolicited wall posts from inebriated friends. Wait a minute, this profile looked familiar… Oh yeah, it looks just like my profile on Linked In. My two worlds collided. Facebook, once upon a time, meant something. Now much like GM, which stretched itself thin trying to appeal to everyone the brand is diluted beyond recognition.
Facebook is now likened to being at a bar with your friends, with your parents sitting in the booth to your right and your coworkers to the your left.
It just isn’t much fun.