Friday, May 16, 2008

Facebook Experiment

I'd like to think that I hadn't caved to peer pressure when I finally woke up my dormant Facebook account at the end of March, but that's really what it was. Cassandra had made some compelling arguments, and Mel had stood her ground despite a hostile attitude from her main man Jim. I was a vocal supporter of one of Jim's main points -- I already didn't have enough time to spend with my real friends, never mind seeking out distant acquaintances online. But inside I knew the real reason, the same reason I've never bought a current video game system: I knew I'd like it too much and spend way too much time on it.

I thought this visual representation of my Facebook friends was fascinating. You can see some patterns: the old Rosenort network, work friends, a Niverville cluster, some orphans off to the right, some old Morris connections, a few Summerland friends, some web-only friends. Very few on the list are older than I am -- it seems like Facebook still skews pretty young. The weird thing about this kind of representation is the gaps -- although a few of my closest friends appear, most are not on here because they're not on Facebook. It makes everyone look like they've got tons of equal-importance acquaintances, not capturing the vast differences in the types of relationships that appear. That incomplete picture probably drives people to try to get their "real" friends into it too.

So what's the verdict? My fear was not misplaced. It is addictive, especially for someone like me who's already online eight hours a day. Not that there's so much going on in there, but it's tempting to check anyway, or fire off a message to someone out of the blue. It was a total buzz to connect with some long-lost friends and a few people I'd always thought I could be friends with. It was totally worth it for a handful of great conversations that wouldn't have happened otherwise. It's also been an interesting channel of communication with friends I already communicate with anyway, which I hadn't expected. One thing I've noticed though -- I think I'm out of the initial buzz phase (adding friends, finding connections) and realizing that I don't really want to DO Facebook as an activity (like playing games, adding a zillion applications or whatever). So I'm not sure if I'll just let it lapse.

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