Facebook is an amazing success story and great example of how technology continues to provide powerful tools that improve our lives. Here are a few thoughts I have on the topic...
First, a thought about the growth of Facebook
. In Ray Kurzweil
's the Singularity is Near, Ray talks about how as the rate of technology progress continues to increase, we're seeing that new paradigm shifts, and new technologies are being embraced much faster than ever before. I see Facebook as being a perfect example of this. Prior to September 11th, 2006, Facebook was only open to College and High School students. So in less than 1 year of becoming open to all Internet users, they've grown to over 20,000,000 users (That stat is as of March, 2007), and I understand they're growing by more than 100,000 users per day. Within approx. 6 months, the site has gone from being virtually unknown by people over age 30 to becoming a core part of most people's web history.
Next, what is a friend?
a person you know well and regard with affection and trust
Now, with Facebook, it seems the concept of a friend has been substantially diminished and can mean something more like acquaintance:
a person known to one, but usually not a close friend.
I'm sure others who use Facebook are experiencing the same phenomenon as I am. I'm receiving 'Friend' requests from people who I haven't seen, (or even thought of ) in 15-20 years... 15-20 years ago, I would have called them a friend. How should one respond to these Friend requests. I don't want to seem like I'm being a snob, but at the same time I want to use Facebook as a useful tool for communicating with people that I do truly consider as friends, who I know well and trust.
Can Facebook be a useful tool to reconnect, potentially rekindle old friendships, absolutely. But adding friends shouldn't be like collecting hockey cards or be seen as some sort of popularity contest, because I feel that just waters down the concept of a friend and renders the site unusable. I don't really want to know what bands all of these people like, or what their status is... If I didn't care to look them up and email them over the past 10 years, then sure it's fun to get a message and hear how they're doing, but that's good enough. If we start an message thread up and find we still have things in common, then fine, let's be friends, but I think to send friend requests to everyone you've ever met is not the right choice.
Lastly, I've touched on this briefly already, but I think in order for Facebook to be a useful tool there are a number of things to consider. Centralize your social messaging... Unless you're dealing with something urgent, encourage your friends to use Facebook messaging for all personal/social electronic communication. In that way, you'll find your work email is less cluttered and you're less distracted using the work day. When you're taking a break, or after work you can login to Facebook and go through all of this in one spot. Secondly, trim down your friend list to people who meet the proper definition of friend. Do you know them well, do you trust them, do you hold some affection towards them. If not, then remove them, they don't get a notification or anything so don't worry about offending anyone.
I'd like to hear comments on this topic! Cheers!