Jan 24, 2008

Facebook Redux: Social Media Gets Less Social, More Useful


One of the things I’ve noticed about Facebook lately is that it demands a lot more of your time. It’s not just about posting updates and pictures anymore: there are movie quizzes and Scrabulous (for now) and zombie attacks and well, all sorts of things that can keep you very occupied. And the thing is that while most of my good friends are now on Facebook, few of them have the time to do something "newsworthy" with it on a daily basis. That means most of the updates I read, most of the movie challenges I receive and most of the new photos I can look at are from people I’m not especially close with.

And that’s made Facebook more of a solitary activity for me. There are enough links posted on there, enough random groups listed, enough sponsored trivia quizzes, that on days where none of the people I care about have actually bothered to post something new on Facebook, I can easily kill a half hour without ever interacting with another person or their profile.

Now that’s a radical change for something called “social media” and while it’s not always my experience when I’m on there, I’m beginning to think it’s where social media are evolving.

Sites like Facebook will basically function as portals, doors through which you can find a world of sponsored and unsponsored content, while still keeping up with your greater circle of friends and acquaintances. Think MyYahoo or iGoogle with social updates. Or even an updated version of the old AOL.

And that works for me. Because it’s only a matter of time before Facebook figures out a way to let me have more control over my social content. To make sure that on days where none of the 10 people I designate have written status updates, that field is left blank. Once that happens, other content slides in to fill in the void. Like maybe some headlines from The New York Times. NBA scores. A widget with the weather forecast. Some movie schedules. You know, the usual portal stuff.

That’s going to make social media far more useful to all the adults out there, the ones who make up the vast majority of our population and who were never going to become social media addicts, for all the reasons I laid out in Social Media Is Only Social If You’re Alone. They have social lives that are important to them. Just not that important. So a site that gives them the best of both worlds would be very welcome.

Now all someone has to do is build it.

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