So I’ve been playing around with the social networking sites lately. A while ago I hopped on the MySpace bandwagon, which I didn’t get at the time (I got over the weird protocol and started to add some friends and see some vague usefulness in it, but it’s not my favorite thing on the web), and lately I’ve joined Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s interesting trying out a few different social networking sites and seeing the pros and cons.
So far I’m liking Facebook. At first I didn’t get it. You can’t customize your profile. And strangers can’t check out your profile unless you let them (same deal as MySpace, but Facebook shuts out strangers by default, and that’s how the vast majority of Facebookers do it, as opposed to MySpace, where the privacy setting is hardly used). The result is that it’s not ugly and it’s more about person to person connections. MySpace, on the other hand, is often more about hype and vague connections (for example, non-person entities have profiles on MySpace, like bands, companies and organizations. You can do this on Facebook, but it’s not as widespread. Yet.).
It’s also much more usable. It’s easier to see what’s been updated and stay up to date on what your friends are doing (why check their profile for updates when the system can tell you when they update it?). It’s also very customizable. Don’t care about photos? Tell the system never to update you when your friends post photos. The privacy functions work much the same way, which will probably help Facebook avoid a lot of trouble (of course stupid users are still stupid users). My favorite part is that when you add friends you can say how you know them. So when you browse a friend’s list of friends you can see who’s a college buddy, who’s a family friend, who’s a co-worker, etc. It makes it more fun to surf around and see who’s who.
Interestingly enough, Facebook is much more popular with the younger crowd. I think they all jumped ship from MySpace as it got popular.
It’s MySpace for the business set. It takes the social networking and connections of MySpace and exploits them for business. Business is all about networking, so let’s drop the pretense and just network. Much like Facebook, this site is also about person to person connections. But rather than just march up to someone, you have to have a mutual contact introduce you (unless you buy in to their paid service–paid service? ha!). It’s a cool way to let networking happen and a nice way to encourage people to add people to their network. You can also ask questions and post job openings, things that take complete advantage of the network of connections (I might not know the answer to your techie question, but my 16 techie friends might).
The only thing I don’t like is that it’s a bit over-protective. You need an e-mail address to connect with someone, whether it’s your brother or not. If you don’t have it, you need a friend to connect you. If you don’t have that, well, you could spring for the paid service, but suddenly it feels like those crappy high school reunion sites that won’t share info unless you buy in. Blech.
I do like the straight-forwardness of the connections. It’s not like you’re flirting around on MySpace. You can come right out and say, I’m looking for freelance work, would you or someone you know hire me?
Social Networking in General
What I think is weird about all these sites is, well, having all these sites. I understand that they each have their well-defined niche. That’s important. But it just gets old to be on multiple sites. A guy can have multiple niches right? But when is it too much? I’m still waiting for somebody to bring it all together. One log-in for Flickr and MySpace and Facebook and LinkedIn and whatever else, and they all share their info. My Flickr photos show up on Facebook and MySpace but not LinkedIn because I said so. That’d be cool.