With the recent Facebook IPO and with Zuck tying the knot, I felt like my newest (but long overdue blog post) should focus on Facebook and the way it has changed our society. Clearly, Facebook has changed the way we communicate, how we keep in touch with people and how we share information (even things we don’t really care about). I am frequently amazed at what people feel compelled to share on Facebook – religious and political beliefs, family and medical issues, and general day-to-day frustrations.
The proliferation and adoption of Facebook has been staggering. There are over 900 million users on Facebook in more than 40 countries. Everyone from elementary school kids to grandparents are on Facebook. There are many useful and productive ways to use Facebook. The video and image sharing is a fantastic way to share our lives with people. Information can be quickly disseminated to thousands, even millions, of people – a lot of this information can be useful (news, weather, traffic, etc) and a lot can be useless (what flavor ice cream someone is eating). Facebook has been a part of elections and revolutions. There are certainly positives to the increased ability to spread information quickly to millions.
However, I often wonder how authentic Facebook and other social networks can possibly be. Our lives are certainly more transparent to one another but how many Facebook “friends” would you go out of your way to say hello to if passing them on the street? How many Facebook friends would you call about a major crisis in your life? Would you post that major crisis on Facebook? Is there a major difference in a Facebook friend versus a real friend? How about those people on Facebook with over 1,000 friends – really 1,000 friends? Are they just adding random people – the barista from Starbucks, the dry cleaner? Do you ever find yourself getting a friend request and trying to figure out who the person is – trying to convince yourself that it must be someone from middle school? Is it rude not to accept a friend request? I may be missing the point of the “social network” – maybe it is the moniker of “friend” that throws me off. Are the bulk of our Facebook friends just social acquaintances that have crossed our paths? Maybe it is different from person to person? Recently, I found out I was no longer a Facebook friend of an old friend from college. I wondered if I had offended her but it turns out she felt like she was wasting too much time on Facebook and scaled it back to family and neighborhood friends. It appears that she deleted many of her college friends from her list – it wasn’t just me.
If you were talking to an old friend and they told you about some great product, would you try it versus if a Facebook friend put it on their wall? I think about the authenticity of my LinkedIn network in the same way but I find myself being more cautious about who I accept into my LinkedIn network. I get numerous requests from all over the world with people trying to connect. It is important to me that my LinkedIn connections are a group of trusted people that I can go to for assistance in business matters. Is anyone else worried about the authenticity of these networks? Am I overthinking it?