To FB or not to FB? Are we friends or ex-friends?

First I want to reply to the post of my Twitter friend and colleague George Frink with whom I DM’ed via Twitter lately on SNS and other issues, and here I have the need to explain, actually clarify his latest post as response to my previous Online friending. The point is that I never said that virtual world relationships are “nonexistent”, real people are behind their avatars, names, user-names etc., as well as social networking on Web at certain aspects are re-establishing our analogue connections and establishing or fostering new connections with people we meet or will meet (both online or offline).

What I was stressing out is that certain group of people, SNS users – e.g. in Serbia, Belgrade, groups from teenagers to adult are networked online all the time, living in pretty obvious proximity in the city, and yet they rather communicate via chat communication channels, social networks, exchanging messages, poking each other, etc. and never (or rarely) appear in analogue world socializing with their virtual friends from the hood. I was reported also by the parents who were complaining, giving up from their kids who spent hours and hours online with their friends, probably not understanding the process, how they are all networked either playing games or chatting, while they could meet in real hood surrounding or some caffee or community center.

This is also a problem for older population of SNS users in Serbia: they rather send messages via Facebook (email is now passe, as well as the usage of text messaging) or MySpace – you can see them hanging online and participating in all given applications. ” If you don’t have Facebook profile- you are not ‘hype’ “.

Also, in this case, it is hard to draw the line between their real and virtual identities as ‘being somebody’s friend at Facebook’ is not ‘hype’ but also group limited issue – “you can be formaly my FB friend but I have smaller group of friends in the (FB) city with whome I poke, virtual fight club, hug, send to each other drinks, chocolates, etc.”. And there are collectors of ‘friends’. Nothing is virtually different considering users behaviour as it is in real life, just instead of face-to-face communication, when is very possible and given/gifted by geo-spots, they choose secure virtual playground. Why?

The other opposite FB scenario is happening these days (I hope it’s not due to my previous post) with adult group of professional computer users (web designers, programmers, bloggers, information professionals, etc.), who are quitting their Facebook accounts. One of the example is my colleague and friend, highly respected designer, who yesterday shut down for good his FB account because after months and months of networking with others, having virtual drinks, etc. he realized it’s getting tiresome, and he doesn’t find any interest in staying at this social network where everyone (in his network) was ‘posing’, trying to be ‘hype’. ‘His fellow commenter’s shared and approved his opinion as it’s better for them to socialize via Flickr or Last.fm, or some other vivid discussion group. This also goes to my statement on real, analogue identity versus ‘hype’, ‘fake’, neo -“Neo’ matrix created identity for common user of SNS in this part of the world. Analysis on this issue will and goes deeper to sociological, psychological and geographical level of research for this kind of phenomena and behaviour. Real friendships will strengthen no matter what, fake one that would lessen either in real or virtual life would happen the same, in the same environments.

So far, someone’s largest social network is it’s own web site or blog. Couldn’t it be any better, useful and safer place for people to find you and contact you, if needed?

xkcd

credits:http://xkcd.com/300/

Comments

  1. gwfrink3 says:

    Thank you for helping me with my misunderstanding of your views.
    We are certainly in agreement.
    With older people, I think withdrawal to virtual associations is fraught with some peril, because it encourages physical isolation. I’m hunting for data which can enlighten me in that regard.
    Whereas for young people, as you suggest, there are issues, but they tend to be quite different. I’m digging around in survey data about that but have reached no conclusions thus far.
    Like you, I have friends who have sharply restricted the range of their online interactions because they were afflicted by hangers-on who posed as valid professional associates.
    Some who have recently come to twitter are for that reason extraordinarily quiet in their explorations.
    In my own case, I’ve stayed away from Myspace, Facebook and the like, and “backed into” twitter.
    My deliberate strategy involves making no attempt to accumulate a following, or to follow a great number of folks. and to “converse” with those to whom I feel I have something to offer and who can, if they elect to, respond in kind. Most of my twitter communications are still direct to and from people who came with me. Most have been friends for decades. You and a few others are the exceptions to that rule, and I’m happy with that outcome.
    Thus far requests for help from non-clients have been reasonable and appropriate.
    Unfortunately, I suspect my experience casts little or no light on the impact of these environments on elderly people who adopt them, or upon the teens and tweens, who in the well-wired world may be adopting them en mass. I hope you and I and maybe some others can sort that out together in time to help accentuate the positives and reduce the negatives.

  2. Hi Dana, completely agree… and topics you are discussing are somewhat part of what I am going through in my research project on Storytelling in Hybrid Environments (http://ecologyofthenovel.wordpress.com/2007/11/19/embodiment-of-stories-in-hybrid-environments/) as part of a more general investigation on The Ecology of The Novel (http://ecologyofthenovel.wordpress.com/).

    In my view, development of 3d platforms as Second Life (http://secondlife.com/) or WoW (http://worldofwarcraft.com/) basically implement the virtual reality paradigm, indirectly supporting narrative theories of involvement into fictional worlds (Pavel 1986) by means of «transportation» (Green – Brock 2000, 2002, Green – Brock – Kaufman 2004). Immersive video experiences supported by devices as Headplay (http://www.headplay.com/) definitely work in the same direction, of soaking users into virtual environments, keeping ecological surroundings out of the picture. On the other hand, a huge load of web 2.0 applications move in the opposite direction, aiming to provide users with contents they carry with them throughout their daily interactive experience of places and people. And an huge divide is going to be drawn between those getting isolated into their own purely virtual narratives crowded with avatars, nicknames and digital phantoms and the others exerting media so to hybridize their own perception of the environment and organisms playing a part on it, that his to enrich stories hey carry on throughout their life.

  3. Eduardo says:

    Well, I think that the point of view depends of the persons, for example i doubt that everyone that use FB are just for be “hype” as you said, in my case is easily talk with others that i don’t have in the msn (and I don’t want to have) in the FB way, or to find someone that i haven’t see in long time, of course there will be, also as you said, persons that will use it just for “the social stuff”, not all the people do that, and for serious talking just create a group or something for talk, all depends just of your mature and what is what you want,

  4. HQ19:7 says:

    I wish I knew your FB ID, we should be friends for sure 🙂 Your observations put into words many of the same i have made recently. Eduardo’s point is very valid :: there ARE many uses, identified, discovered or otherwise, of virtual networking, chatting, blogging, and so on. I agree (I think with you), that one’s blog should seriously be the sort of ‘main window’ or ‘gateway’ if you will, on any identity. It is a more accessible portal in any case, while FB or ORKUT profiles are a personal space, as too are the skype or ICQ friendships.

  5. Danica says:

    @anatole, professional view of digital and hybrid communication researcher
    @eduardo, you got reply on previous post comment page.

    @hp19:7, i think you already did. let’s separate these two things: there are users, SNS users that observe their FB, MS, Orkut etc. accounts as their ‘own homepages’ – also noticed at some SNS profiles instead of URL of personal site or blog, URL of FB ID or MS username, suing SNS platforms as their ‘ready-to-go’pages.
    everything other said are variations on digital communication moduel: as mentioned skype/icq as personal communication channels either for chat in real time, or net telephony.

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