Facebook Chatter

I was curious about the surge in uptake of Facebook in Malta – which as a small island, might point towards people being less inclined to use social networks than others living in big cities. So I asked some Facebook friends to talk about Facebook. I spread the mix, to make sure there was nothing much in common (except that I knew them all). This is some of the chatter which winged its way back.

Joining Facebook tends to be a collective of curiosity, professional obligation and boredom.

Wesley, 27, Radio Presenter

I joined because of peer pressure. Then it was to keep in contact with my friends abroad. Then it turned into networking. Now I have no clue. I open it a minimum of once a day, but i usually open it after I receive some email about some zombie that wants to slay my vampire, or about someone superpoking me in the eye.

Julian, 33, Web Designer

It started off with curiosity and because online communities are part of my work. There are times when I will login in several times a day – but too much of it triggers a touch of agoraphobia, and then I stop using it for weeks.

Shaun, 31, Student

I joined because of boredom and because I’ve finally given in to the latest technological fad that in reality does nothing to enhance the quality of life. I’m only checking it out when someone sends a message, which occasionally is from a lost friend. Even in this case, it is a useless message from someone who is just as bored as I am, telling me crap about his / her life I am not remotely interested in anyway.

Gege, 29, Director of Technology Company

It is an informal (and colourful) way of keeping in touch with networks from different spheres – from old school friends to current business colleagues. I feel it lacks the more organized business approach allowing you to source potential partners: for this I prefer Linkedin. Generally I spend most of my time selecting to ‘ignore’ FunWall Posts and Movie-Compatibility tests.

Darren, 33, Technologist & Blogger

I do marketing for technology companies, and Facebook has become a gathering place for geeks (and everybody else). Subsequently I’ve found it useful for organizing events and creating and joining affinity groups (around politics, sports, hobbies and so forth). I also like the Scrabble app, even though I constantly lose.

Immanuel, 40, Writer

I limit myself to using it as rarely as possible. Some subscribers have hundreds of ‘friends’. I’m sure they don’t communicate with all of them. It’s practically impossible because no one can really have that number of friends. It intrigues me how people on your list are called friends when they are simply contacts. This is one facet of the internet: trying to personalise, I would say even embody, contacts that could well be anonymous.

Voyeurism and exhibitionism are key drivers

Julian, 33, Web Designer

People use it in the same way they use SMSs and don’t call. It’s quick, giving unprecedented access to your entire social group. It’s relatively non-committal: you can be part of a group without contributing much. It’s also voyeurism and gossip on tap.

Louiselle, 35, Media Manager

If I have to be honest, I think there an element of voyeurism in the whole “ritual” that is Facebook. You know, peeping into other people’s lives.

Giselle, 25, Administrator

It’s a way of seeing what people have been up to… it’s quite nosy in a sense. Some people milk it for all it’s worth and add every little detail about their days. The line between personal and private is very thin and I think there has to be an amount of discretion when writing certain things or uploading certain photos. Exposing your life on the Internet can have a negative side; for example, it’s been suggested that employers search for their employees on Facebook to find out more about them. Who’s to stop them? It’s a public field.

Melissa, 28, Sales & Marketing

It seems Maltese photographers are making a mint with everyone flocking to have photo shoots done!

Coryse, 30- something, Drama Teacher

I suppose there is an element of exhibitionism to a certain extent. But hey, I’m an actress and I love it!

John, 45, Director of Innovation Institute

The Maltese love gossiping and seeing what people are doing. You can see friends whenever you want in theory – does this happen in practice?

Wesley, 27, Radio Presenter

What I haven’t got is the concept of telling people what you’re doing online… and updating it. I mean this in the nicest way, but If i really cared… I’d ask!

Teodor, 22, Student

I think exhibitionism is a big part of it, though I don’t know if I’d actually be so polemical about it. I think there’s something exciting about being able to play with your identity like that and I look forward to seeing where it’s gonna go, for better or worse.

Shaun, 31, Student

What’s there to publish in a life lived and sat in front of a computer really?

Gege, 29, Director of Technology Company

Every person (and his dog) now has a blog, a travel-pod an MSN-spot and Facebook corner. Younger users compete at gathering the largest amount of online friends and connections or the highest traffic to their blog. The Internet is the channel for your ego to shine through and Facebook certainly offers the tools to broadcast this to a potential global captive audience.

Immanuel, 40, Writer

Exhibitionism is a major characteristic of contemporary life. I think we are compelled to exhibit ourselves, and most of us seem to be enjoying it. This trait encompasses all aspects of our lives. We are seduced to exhibit our bodies, and we are enticed to do the same with our souls. I marvel at the huge amount of material being published in which our bodies are exhibited, which is the true reason behind this craze with losing weight and looking nice. I recently came across an article published in some local Sunday magazine where the writer gave a graphic account of her latest visit to the gynaecologist. I wonder who made her think we were interested in that. She literally bared it all. But, on the other hand, it is what many people are doing: unfolding the wraps of privacy so that all can have a look, or should I say so that all can gaze. And it is not just our bodies that we are putting up for show. All those words uploaded on the net are a means of exhibiting the soul. There is so much talking going on the net and other media; I am not so sure about how much listening there is though. And I am even less sure about how interested we are in being heard and listened to. The important thing is to speak out, because by speaking out we form a virtual self which may make up for other things which we find lacking in our lives. So, yes, there is an element of exhibitionism which, again, is another infantile characteristic.

Wesley, 27, Radio Presenter

I think it’s because we like to feel connected with other people in an age when everyone feels disconnected. People today call the people who live next door to them neighbours, yet they’ve never spoken to them for more then 10 minutes, and may have never been in their house. People are becoming more private, and in a way Facebook offers this little lifeline to the world and helps us feel part of a community.

Shaun, 31, Student

I guess fads and fashions have been there forever irrespective of their usefulness. We are a herd of sheep anyway – we flocked to the latest wine bar in the 1990s, and we flock towards the mass aggregation to the invisible and indiscriminate world of numbers on the web seeking ‘virtual’ friendship and for others a ‘virtual shag’. Future generations will be devoid of any social skills – social networks are changing the dynamics of human contact. The mobile phone was the gadget of the 90s…even the staunchest of resistant hippies owns one today….it is part of the globalising jungle. Where before exclusion largely depended on human variables, technology is now creating a new strand of ‘technologically poor’ in the global South, and relatively poor in technological terms- parents will be working to fuel their own and their children’s technology addictions. People will soon forget what a phone looked like, what meeting up for a chat was like in the distant 90s, and the act of going out to physically buy a CD.

Gege, 29, Director of Technology Company

The reality of this connected world is that you don’t see your friends in Malta whenever you want! Firstly most friends work overseas; secondly those who live on the isle are generally tied up, as I am, to their laptops making it the most expedient communication tool. Above all, the ingenuity of Facebook is that it allows you to rekindle connections which you would have otherwise been lost: travel acquaintances, primary school bench mates and the like.

Darren, 33, Technologist & Blogger

It’s an incredibly powerful virus which motivates people to, uh, infect their friends and colleagues. Two illustrative nicknames for Facebook are FaceBorg and CrackBook.

Immanuel, 40, Writer

I think we have found ourselves trapped to communicate. We check our email continuously, we get mad if we forget our phone behind, and now there’s Facebook … yet another trap. What makes Facebook different from other communication devices is that it is extremely childish, so I think there is also an element of nostalgia in it: you get invited to have a pet (electronic one of course), your ‘friends’ are invited to ‘pet’ it and feed it so that they win points with which they can ‘raise’ their own electronic pets, you are sent (electronic) drinks and ice creams and cakes and what have you. It’s all so very very childish. Not having a pet, or not having one of the million add-ons makes your Facebook page look boring, because as kids we need to have all the new things, all the new toys around.

Despite its success, nobody is quite sure if Facebook is here to stay.

Giselle, 25, Administrator

I think it will last for quite a while because it’s a very good social networking site and has a lot of elements that take it beyond just that title. 99% of the friends that I had in my Hi5 list moved over to Facebook anyway.

Melissa, 28, Sales & Marketing

I’m not quite sure – a couple of months ago, with the Gozitans, Hi5 was the big thing on the island. Facebook has a more international appeal. If it doesn’t last then this will only be attributed by it being replaced by a better alternative.

Julian, 33, Web Designer

The concept is not a passing fad but it depends on the crowd. If the crowd moves on to the next big then it’s pointless hanging around Facebook.

James, 41, Photo Journalist

It’s a fad, and there’ll be more like it, but it will last, as long as it doesn’t go the way MySpace is going, with all the spam and garbage and auto requests it has.

Coryse, 30- something, Drama Teacher

Well, other similar sites such as H1 5 for example started out big and then kind of fizzled out. But I think (or rather, hope) that this one is here to stay.

Wesley, 27, Radio Presenter

Well history (what little there is of it) tells us that it is a passing fad, unless it reaches the 2 year point of high usage. I might move on to something else, depends on what the concept is… and I would if it included performing midgets.

Juan, 45, Director Technology Institute

I think the next big thing will take over unless Facebook is able to reinvent itself.

Shaun, 31, Student

I think Facebook is a glorified Hi5 for adults. It will be superseded by something else, with more gadgets and in the grand scheme of things, just as useless in the bettering of human kind. Like everyone else I will be swallowed into the next big thing of irrelevance.

Gege, 29, Director of Technology Company

Facebook is the next big thing. It is the single most successful social networking tool and I am surprised how business organizations in Malta as well as NGOs have not invested in the medium so as to harvest the potential of its networks. Like most technologies, Facebook’s main challenge lies in its ability to re-invent itself every few months. As the online community becomes more demanding Facebook must offer more interactive, better-connected applications.

Darren, 33, Technologist & Blogger

Like all technologies, Facebook will get surpassed. It’s the latest in a long line of social networks, starting from Friendster and, most recently, MySpace. Like all trends, the ‘cool kids’ will move on to the next big thing, and the masses will follow.

Immanuel, 40, Writer

I think it is a passing fad. Again that is very much internet-ish. There are always new things coming up, and we are always getting lured to subscribe and use this and that. For a time blogging was the thing. I get the impression that, at least locally, the use of blogs has diminished. I haven’t used mine for ages, because at one point I realised it was all a nice little game of talking out. But to what effect? Of course I may be missing the point about all this. Granted, that is very possible.

And as a Coda…

Giselle, 25, Administrator

Facebook is definitely part of my daily routine

Melissa, 28, Sales & Marketing

I like to look through friends’ lists and see why some people are friends or how people have met … it must be the romantic in me!

Julian, 33, Web Designer

I think it’s just the thin end of publishing yourself online. The frequency of updates will grow as mobile device manufacturers become more attuned to self publishing. Want to see what your friends are doing right this second? Just log on (to the device in your hand) and watch/listen to their personal Facebook stream. Any of your friends with 500m of you? Just log on.

John, 45, Director of Innovation Institute

You can get lonely on this as well!

Wesley, 27, Radio Presenter

What I would like to know – how many Maltese employee hours were wasted on Facebook over the past 12 months?

Juan, 45, Director Technology Institute

I get to play online Risk once a week at home which is a favourite game of mine.

Teodor, 22, Student

Have a Zombie hug

Shaun, 31, Student

Soon, we will forget it even existed in the first place.

Gege, 29, Director of Technology Company

I think there is room for many improvements actually – I’ll mention the three which I feel strongly about:

Privacy: Facebook has already paid a high price for making a basic Web 2.0 mistake that sites like MySpace, Flickr and YouTube avoid. It has grown so fast (47 million users) that it disregarded privacy issues to the extent that safeguards to protect children from sexual predators, obscene content and harassment only occurred after New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a formal protest earlier on this year.

Interface: Facebook has lagged in interface design. Its GUI is bland, occupies too little horizontal screen-space and too much vertical real estate. Its menus are oddly grouped and pages feel cluttered. I’d love to see a total revamp.

Wider media integration: Facebook recently launched basic SMS integration allowing a user to update his status while away from a connected PC. This is the first step at widening the platform but there’s a long way to go. As media devices converge I think it’s just a matter of time before we see Facebook software running on digital-television systems popping up interactive on-screen status updates. The technology leap is large but the business benefits for Mark Zuckerberg (or the then owners of Facebook) will be enormous.

Darren, 33, Technologist & Blogger

These are some of my posts on Facebook:
http://www.darrenbarefoot.com/index.php?tag=facebook

In particular, I think this one is well thought out:
http://www.darrenbarefoot.com/archives/2007/05/satco-and-how-facebook-folds-time.html

This entry was posted in Social media and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Facebook Chatter

  1. Toni Sant says:

    Very interesting! Thanks for taking the time to collect these comments Alex.

    Happy New Year! ;-)

  2. Pingback: Waving hands, TV and Facebook | StrategyWorks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s