By the time you read this you’ve probably already read the articles talking about the phenomenal rise of the ‘Social Utility’ that is Facebook. In fact I’ve been slightly surprised by the slow up-take of writing about it. Perhaps all the mainstream journos are too busy updating their profiles and poking their pals. [Update: Interesting blog post on the fadish nature of social networks - Are network effects getting weaker?]
Facebook is a great online service, compelling in its ability to leverage connections with people to both boost egos and provide self definition in the virtual space. But despite this I’m struggling to work out exactly how to use it. I mean I know how to ‘use it’ – it’s simplicity is one of the things that helps make it so persuasive. But what am I going to use it for?
Professional vs. Personal
BIMA Chair, and Segala CEO, Paul Walsh was telling me yesterday that he has Twittered to all his colleagues that he will no longer be using Linkedin and that Facebook is now where he is at*. So Paul obviously sees this as a channel for communication and networking in the business environment. But I’m not sure that the sort of personal information that Facebook encourages one to submit is how I want clients, and colleagues to see me. [Update: Paul’s written a post on his blog explaining his motivations behind shifting to Facebook called Please no more linked in invites]
While the lines between private and public, professional and personal have been becoming more and more blurred over the last few years, I’ve made a conscious attempt to manage a coherent identity and profile online. How others, in a professional capacity see me is important to me. How I act in my private life is something I’d like to manage differently.
All of this made sense and was relatively easy when Linkedin was about professional networking, my blog was my communication channel and my personal activities, likes and dislikes were shared with a small band of friends and colleagues, usually those with ‘Big Hearts and Short Memories’. Obviously I could just keep this going but somehow Facebook has unsettled me, thrown a spanner in the works.
Facebook’s persuasive interface means that ‘making friends’ is central to it’s existence, and after I’ve already ‘faced’ with most of my family and close personal friends what next? If I’m honest I probably only make one or two new close friends each year, if that. So where does that leave me with Facebook?
I’m left with all the ‘strangers’ I can meet online and the professional contacts I meet while networking through work. Should I add them to my friends list? Should I share the information, pictures and peccadillos that are normally reserved for mates? I’m not sure if I like the idea of losing the divide between my two worlds.
* Interestingly it took no time at all for the troops at Linkedin to contact Paul directly and ask what suggestions he had for service improvement.