Danah Boyd, Noah Brier and Rob Walker are questioning Facebook’s role in their lives. They’re not alone. Just two weeks ago Om Malik, Scoble and Calacanis conducted a distancing ceremony.
I lost control over my Facebook tonight. Or rather, the context got destroyed. For months, I’ve been ignoring most friend requests. Tonight, I gave up and accepted most of them. I have been facing the precise dilemma that I write about in my articles: what constitutes a “friend”? Where’s the line? For Facebook, I had been only accepting friend requests from people that I went to school with and folks who have socialized at my house. But what about people that I enjoy talking with at conferences? What about people who so kindly read and comment on this blog? What about people I respect? What about people who appreciate my research but whom I have not yet met?
I can totally appreciate what Danah’s saying about context. At the same time, I think there is a foundational context to some of these social networks. On MySpace, bands provide that context, or glue. For me at least, MySpace is a place, perhaps the place, to interact directly with bands. I realize other realities play themselves out on MySpace, but I went there for that and I receive that.
Facebook’s glue that binds is “friends from school.” Like fans of bands, friends from school are real relationships with an online dimension. Therein lies the soc net magic. Soc nets work best when they magnify and facilitate real life friendships.
Then there’s the possibility of making new friends. In Danah’s case she’s overwhelmed by the mass of requests. I’m sure alot of bands on MySpace are likewise overwhelmed. But “fans” and “customers” are practically synonymous, so a certain type of “friendship” does often form. And when you look at all the possibilities for forming new fan-to-fan friendships, a rich milieu it does seem. For instance, if you like Kings of Leon, you may also like other fans of the band that you “meet” online.
What’s happening to the digerati is they’re becoming globes that others orbit around. Dahah Boyd as indie band, or private university. That could make anyone uncomfortable. Yet the gravity of a star is natural law and what brings people to the party.