Back in the day, I had a profile over on Friendster. Then for some reason, a bunch of my friends all abandoned the site for favor of Myspace and I followed along over there. For a brief period, it seemed like Google’s Orkut service might take off… I signed up there too, but nothing really ever came of that. Then along came Facebook and so many people flocked to that. Having done the social networking square dance with a few sites already, I didn’t really feel like getting into another trendy, fashionable service that did more or less what the previous sites I’d been on did.
As we all know now, Facebook managed to outlast its rivals in the social networking world and for now, it seems like it will remain atop the heap, at least for the next few years. Facebook is cool, chic and happening… and I’m still not a member. Ultimately, I just don’t think that Facebook has anything to offer me but problems.
First off, there are already plenty of websites I check daily… there’s two email accounts, a twitter feed, a few more twitter lists, a couple message boards and other websites, plus the bottomless pit of my RSS reader, which takes in ~250 items per day, of which I read maybe 30, tops. So to pile Facebook on top of this? No thanks. I already have too many sites to visit!
Now maybe I wouldn’t have to visit daily… heck, maybe just once a week! but what do I do when I’m there? Most – if not all – of the features of Facebook seem to be implemented better elsewhere. Maybe they’re not all under one umbrella, but that’s fine by me. I’ll send email from Gmail, share pictures on Flickr, post status updates on Twitter, post longer updates on my blog (ha!)… and I can follow other folks who do likewise!
Now maybe I can’t be found as easily by people I’ve lost touch with, and admittedly, that is a slight drawback. But how many people do I really *want* to be found by? And what about all the people who I haven’t lost touch with, but maybe I don’t want to share with quite so much? What of the real-life implications of pocket vetoing friend requests? I’m really happier sidestepping the question of explaining why I don’t want to “friend” an annoying co-worker or a not-so-annoying acquaintance (family member?) who I don’t want peering into my life.
While putting lots of personal information on the Internets is chic these days, I’m also wary of it for a slightly personal reason: while the world is filled with countless folks named Dan, Sean and Josh, there are very few folks with my name. I’m pretty easily googled and finding information about me isn’t too difficult. As a result, I try to avoid posting personal information out there that’s associated with my name (also why I blog pseudonymously). That’s not to say you can’t find a good bit out if you know me, but if you’re a putative employer, I’d rather make all this information harder to find. In a world where Facebook is closing doors for job seekers and destroying marriages, it just doesn’t seem like a wise tradeoff to share a bunch of personal information publicly… especially on a site like Facebook that has a notoriously bad history with user privacy.
A friend of mine once told me that the only reason he was on Facebook was because everyone else was. There’s no intrinsic draw to him besides the network. Network effects are assuredly important for any social networking site, but I’m not going to sign up just because everyone else does. There has to be value in it for me. Although keeping up with friends is certainly valuable, I can do that in lots of ways that don’t involve Facebook, and ultimately that’s my preference.