Proper Facebook Etiquette

#304 Facebook and SNSs as the new master?

Wednesday 9th January, 2008

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As has been discussed before, here, and pretty much everywhere else around the Web, version 2.0 is distinguished as the ‘new’ (or rather latest) set of social tools that is ‘open’ ‘intuitive’ and above all a ‘seductive’ way to spend our time. What we have available to our finger tips are a range of new social media (NSM) where we take pleasure ‘hanging out’ and poking friends.

Or do we? Is this really pleasurable, or a new set of social rituals and rules that must be followed in order to save our social graces and keep social face. Is Web 2.0 and the related SNSs such as Facebook the new master, as we become their social subservient?

In much of the research and data collection that I have conducted in the UK, Australia and the United States these all share very culpable anxieties about to connect, and to disconnect oneself from social demands and expectations. The movement of friendships from the co-presence and onto SNSs has been an area that has caused most concern and has revealed a myriad of social activities and connectedness that are informed by a sense of social obligation to stay in touch and informed with social networks in a way that is more ‘demanding’ than ever before.

On the one hand there is celebration at the boundlessness and freedom of information; shares, collusions, collisions and collaborations. And yet in the centre of all these freedoms come new sets of social responsibilities and priorities. ‘It’s not like you can pretend that you’re not at home anymore’, a user of Facebook recently mentioned.

So as we enter a new level of hyperconnectedness and begin to play out our lives in front of and through the screen(s), there is at once an enhanced feeling of social integration, or rather an omniscient presence who feels compelled to ‘dabble’ in a rather exposed and public social arena.

There is no doubt that the intuitive and simplistic design of Web 2.0 is seductive, a social space here as users we move seamlessly through content and trace information tracts. Just this morning I ‘lost’ a good 20 minutes of my life after logging into my account on TrustedPlaces, only to find myself on a ‘follow through’ from my original intention to read the ‘review of the day’, to a recommended restaurant from the news blog-roll that was new to me and therefore worthy of further investigation.

Rather than a specific ‘need’, or indeed calculation on my part that I wanted to be driven to such content, I felt compelled to explore these pages further. A classic case of content finding me. And who cannot say the same for all those occasions when you have logged into Flickr or Facebook ‘just to check’ your inbox, and then finding yourself 30 minutes later still cruising the social network information highway.

In some respect then the hardware of technology and the infrastructure of the Web has disappeared, leaving in their wake new opportunities for users to take their time accessing new points of contact and exploring new links.

So I’m contending that are 3 corresponding stages to what is taking place;

i) Stage one: Sociability or ‘being social’, where concern is to build up new points of contact and to maintain ‘old’ connections through interactions on SNSs.

ii) Stay two: Networkability or ‘being networked’, having built up networks of links these are then maintained through membership to an array of SNSs and across different social media hardware – so yes that wonderful piece of technology the iPhone!

iii) Stage three: Visibility or ‘being visible’, when networks of links are used to both cultivate and sustain interactions as well as to experience ‘being in touch’ with others. Social actions are confirmed by a ‘presence’ that is always contactable even if the user is ‘busy’ elsewhere.

The consequences of these stages of social action? Well that is still being worked out. What is for sure is that the social expectations that drive users to generate and immerse themselves within social networks are seductive to the point of addiction. Perhaps what is needed for the New Year is a new level of social self-control away from the Web 2.0 master. Or maybe the control is to enjoy our new level of social compulsion in a way that is masterful to us, and allows us to stumble across the ‘new’ in our lives; whether a restaurant, friend or megabyte of information…

That could be Stage four…

One Response to “#304 Facebook and SNSs as the new master?”

  1. FG says:

    The three stages are really interesting.

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