I was catching up with a friend of mine last night, and we got on the topic of Facebook. I had waited a long time to signup for a Facebook account – or a MySpace account for that matter – except for just a handful of folks, like my friend Jason. The interesting part is that he, of all people, waited a long time to sign up. Jason is one of the most well connected people that I know.
And what made it notable was that another historically well connected friend of mine, Erin, also waited the longest time of anyone I knew to get a Facebook account. Even then, she goes by an alias name there. Both of them completely skipped MySpace.
So why did these folks who seem so naturally social wait so long to be a part of an online social network? The answer is pretty much in the question. Two folks who had the richest and most varied social lives, full of face to face interaction. Why do they want some website in the place of that?
And so, the punchline: Facebook sucks. Well, it sucks as a replacement for what you can only get in the real world. And it doesn’t suck for other ways of using it, that you can only get online.
For example, if you’re a parent (like I am), being able to share family photos of the baby with distant friends and family is awesome. You just couldn’t do that quite the same way in the old world. There’s some necessity in socializing on your own time, which comes with growing up and filling up your days with responsibility.
Despite those good parts, it’s not a replacement for good ol’ hanging out. As my friend Jason pointed out, interpersonal interaction is about all the subtleties that you get face to face. It’s that paired with the very dynamic nature of real life; you don’t always know what’s going to happen next (like you often do online).
But our last sentiment in that conversation was this: each context has its purpose. You can’t try to replicate or replace the experience of real world social experiences online. And, for that matter, vice versa.