As this is being written, the debut of Facebook as a publicly traded stock is off to a rocky start with share prices taking a significant dip from its original offering. Being a mild critic of this web giant, I do have a small measure of glee. I believe that eventually Facebook will meet the same fate as the former king of the social networking hill – Myspace, that has faded into obscurity. But, then again, I also predicted the demise of karaoke and rap music.
In an earlier generation, television earned the nickname of boob tube for a reason. Too much of a good thing can be a waste of time. At least back then, data on what you watched or how much you watched wasn't being collected by various sources such as prospective employers. “George, I see you have been watching a lot of Three Stooges, any particular reason for this?”
Facebook started in 2004 (light years ago in cyber time) as a networking site for college students. Much of its ranks were filled with former Myspacers who tired of the “juvenile” nature and content of their former social network. College students have something in common, especially those who attend the same school. In time, Facebook became the next big thing, expanding to a reported 900 million active users globally. Now, the only thing friends on Facebook all have in common is that they know you. In the real world, the average person wouldn't dream of sharing the same information with everyone they know. Some might actually care what you had for breakfast. Since what I ingest for a meal quickly goes down the memory hole, I hardly have interest in what someone else fills their belly with. If a person came up to me on a regular basis and conveyed such minutiae without any contextual relevance, I'd have doubts about their sanity, but it's all quite normal in Facebook world.
There is a contrived feel to social media. Not since grade school have I had anyone ask to be my “friend.” Friendship is not annouced, it happens in stages. De-friending on Facebook is even more bizarre. With a click of button – your friend becomes your unfriend. Actually, that would be pretty nifty if it was that easy to get someone to stop communicating with you. Let's not forget the birthday congratulations. “Thanks for wishing me a happy birthday via an automatic posting you read. It's so touching to be remembered by a computer application.”
I suppose moderation is the key like in so many things. There are many viable social media alternatives to the one-size-fits-all corporate giants such as Facebook. I have a friend who's main networking involves participation in the American Mastiff Forum. For such a large dog, there is a very small group of owners. He is able to share information on the Internet that otherwise would be impossible. The American Mastiff Forum will never take in billions of dollars in advertizing revenue or be traded on the Nasdaq stock exchange, but it could very well outlast Facebook.