Monday, February 22, 2010

To Facebook or Not to Facebook: What’s the Right Social Network For You?

“You have to join Facebook, Margaret,” Heather insisted to my other fifty-year old friend after she lamented that she couldn’t keep up with what her kids or other friends were doing. According to iStrategyLabs in Washington, D.C., “the fastest-growing segments on Facebook are Gen Xers nearing age 40 and baby boomers pushing 60” (Scientific American Mind, Jan/Feb 2010).

Since its launch at Harvard University in 2004, Facebook’s memebership has swollen to over 250 million people in 170 countries and territories, beating out MySpace (with 125 million users), LinkedIn (a site for professionals), and Twitter.

The millions of social-network users are engaged in the largest experiment in social interaction ever conducted, says David Disalvo of Scientific American Mind (Jan/Feb 2010).

I started my Facebook account two years ago, in 2007, and confess I was initially on there daily, trying out all the applications, and I mean ALL of them, even the silly ones. I was trading messages, pokes, virtual gifts, insults, and all kinds of stuff with old and new friends. Back then, most of my existing close friends weren’t on Facebook yet—didn’t even know it existed—and I networked mostly with business colleagues and blogging friends from all over the world, many who I had never met. I had also joined three blogging communities, MyBlogLog and Blog Catalog and StumbleUpon. All three provided me with access to other like-minded people who also authored blogs. It was, in fact this community of bloggers who I later met again on Facebook, after we’d already established a good friendship through our blogs and associated networking community.

Social networks are an amazing way to meet and form meaningful relationships with people of like minds. Some networks work better at this than others. In fact, Facebook is a network that works best for people who already know each other. I don’t find it a good place to meet a stranger, per se, because it isn’t focused enough and doesn’t provide adequate filters. It’s like meeting someone at the local bar—without the benefit of having a drink! Now, where’s the fun in that? I’d much rather meet that person face-to-face, where all my senses are able to exercise themselves. That’s what I like about the blogging communities: everyone there is a blogger like me and I can go to their blog to find out an awful lot about whether they’re interesting and worth me sharing an online relationship with. My son belongs to a social network devoted to skiing. Of course, it isn’t just a sport; it’s a sub-culture. And that social network has allowed him to find a group of cool friends who share his passion, and speak the same language.

Social networking has freed us of the fetters and limitations of geography. It doesn’t matter anymore what side of the river you live on, or what you look like. What’s important is your mind and your heart. Social networks provide an even playing ground for minds to interact. I know of several people who formed a relationship online through a social network and have gone on to meet in person and become great friends.

So, Margaret… What are you waiting for?...

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.


Anonymous said...


I am waiting for hell to freeze over! Hahahahaha

Honestly, I couldn't afford the time that is required to keep up with Facebook, or should I say I would rather do other things with my time!

I love to socialize face-to-face and can manage to keep up with the few people that I do correspond with electronically via email, google chat and the occassional blog post.

Life in the flesh is complicated enough without a lot of extra electronic threads to keep track of...!

For now...Facebook is not on my list of things to do....and last I heard, hell is still pretty hot!


Baby Brie

SF Girl said...

Ooh... ooh.... :)

Well, Margaret, with climate change warming up the Poles, I think you'll be waiting a long time, indeed!

Meantime, I keep hearing the word Facebook in the pubs I eat in and see young and old checking their iphones or other devices for Facebook news... It is indeed one giant experiment in social interaction...

Meantime, I guess I'll be talking to you on the phone or google-chat, Margaret... :)

tmy said...

Yesterday, I finally dipped my toes into the water of the Facebook social experiment and set up a page...
I guess I fall right into the parameters of the biggest social experiment, and coming in late in the game puts me right into the largest part of the bell curve!
The reason I did this is that I have been researching the marketing aspect of the internet (I recently set up my artwork on a group printing site for artists) and I've found out that Facebook is the recommended arena to bring traffic to any secondary marketing URL.
I have yet to investigate all the aspects of Facebook that provide this type of linking, but since the data overwhelming supports it as a major tool for SEO, I can hardly see how Facebook could be dismissed as a social networking phenomenom.

Princess Haiku said...

I started to facebook lately and it is fun. However, you do have to think about whom you want to invite into your private sphere; family photos and all. Maybe it's a good idea to have more than one account.

SF Girl said...

Yes, TMY, I've heard (and experienced) what you speak of (we need to chat about this over a coffee...soon... :)

Princess, you speak wisely, as usual... more than one account with different levels of privacy based on intent and usage. Very wise, indeed...

Jean-Luc Picard said...

There can't be many who aren't in Facebook. I think all my office is! It's a great way of keeping in touich, be they a mile away or the other side of the world.

Anonymous said...

And oh what conundrums doth Facebook make...

1) "Will I offend someone I don't really know if I de-friend them?"
Probably not but people do worry about it.

2) The smart people that would be most interesting to befriend are smart enough not to open their Facebook profiles to every yahoo on the net.

3) How much of your personal information is now in the hands of some script kiddie that create some game/quiz/survey on Facebook - When you sign up to play you have pay with your data. Too many people don't even think about it.

4) What is a "Friend"? How many friends / twitter followers do I need and can keep up with?

5) Who am I friends with? Who is really behind the profile / blog entry. Recent example:
Window metrics source lies about identity

Who is really behind the adventures of Toulouse????

6) Your profile is your brand, but it is difficult to protect your brand. Many people have lost jobs (fired or not hired) because of stuff found when their name was put into a search engine. Don't forget, when a third party posts pictures of your drunken reverie on their site and tags your name and they are happy to leave their site un-secured - boom there goes your brand.

Facebook, MySpace and Twitter grouse about how many accounts they have. Given that many accounts were started then abandoned and many people have multiple accounts how many "real" users are out there?

If one decides to jump into the Social Network morass, take the time to learn what to protect, what to expose and what you want to portray.

You can choose to have a single facebook profile and then set up groups / professional pages for your side interests. Keep your facebook profile for family and friends you actually know and meet those with common interests in the groups. If you find someone in the group that is actually worthy to become a personal friend, you can invite them into your personal site.

Thus to a conclusion doth my emanations come, go forth and network in peace.



ps: Do You Need A Friend?

SF Girl said...

Yes, Jean-Luc, young and old are on Facebook. I hear its name uttered in every crowd I'm in--okay, in the bars...


Limberger, thanks for your diatribe. :) You give some great advice, especially near the end. The key to any tool's success is linking its utility to the motives of its user. However, as you mentioned, it is best to understand both its potential and its limitations. In the case of Facebook, which is a communication/social networking tool,the risks are associated with the very same things that make it attractive to users. It is open to anyone and almost anything. Its nondiscriminatory platform is its very advantage and disadvantage. Like with anything complex. For instance, if you're a very private and extremely sensitive person then why on Earth would you be on Facebook and risk possible abuse? If, on the other hand your prime motive is exposure and you don't care if it generates good or bad publicity--so long as it is PUBLICITY--then go for the gusto and Facebook, Facebook, Facebook!

オテモヤン said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SF Girl said...

p.s., as for who's behind Toulouse's adventures... Well, I'm so glad you mentioned that little scamp! Being his trusty travel companion, I must lament that I am often "behind" him... chasing after him as he frolicks effortlessly up endless staircases or "loses" himself in a funky liquor store or fancy mall...

see these links for instance:

He even got his own blog! Here: Go check it out and bug him with comments! :-D

Oh... speaking of Facebook, Toulouse is also on Facebook (and last I checked, I think he has more friends than I do! LOL! ... Go figure... He's French):