JANUARY 25, 2009
Facebook: empowering, entertaining, addicting?
When I mention Facebook to friends I get one of two responses: "Why?" or "I love Facebook!"
...stop writing article to poke around on Facebook for ten minutes without intending to...
OK, back on track again. If you're not familiar with Facebook, it's a social networking website. Watch the video at right for a quick explanation of social networking.
There are many social networking sites, including two biggies, MySpace and LinkedIn. MySpace tends to attract younger users and musicians—your favorite teenager and your favorite band/singer/group probably have MySpace pages. LInkedIn is more professional—your boss and your friend who's looking for a white-collar job will be there. Facebook is somewhere in the middle.
Social networking played a big role in Barack Obama's campaign, so expect to see every current and would-be politician jump on the bandwagon in time for the next election. For better or worse, like it or not, social networking is here to stay. I'm going to leave that discussion for another time and jump right to the question...
If you Google "Why is Facebook addictive?" you get about 1.5 million hits. Obviously I'm not the only one asking. An answer I read on Facebook itself gives one perspective:
gosh darn it...coz it brings us closer to the ppl we love. they're all at our finger tips. emancipation, communication, procrastination... anything ending in "tion" seems like a reasonable explanation?
One of those "tions" may be addiction. From AddictionInfo.org:
Frequent Facebook visits actually cause something psychologists refer to as intermittent reinforcement.
Notifications, messages and invites reward you with an unpredictable high, much like gambling. That anticipation can get dangerously addictive.
Or as Professor B.J. Fogg of Stanford University put it:
The pinnacle of persuasion in the "trigger" category is the individual status updates that Facebook users type in at random times....
Status updates are amazing. They are pellets that keep popping out for the pigeons— tremendously effective at keeping you coming back.
(Fogg is quoted in a Salon.com article)
I'll admit it, that pigeon thing works for me. I check my Facebook page several times a day, mostly to see who's doing what. It's fun to read this morning that Molly in Colorado is sniffing a baggie of fresh thyme, and that Pam carpools to work every Monday.
I like that you can easily comment, so I quickly sent a "Good job" to Pam because I think carpooling is good and I want to encourage her—and anyone else who sees this on Facebook. This, of course is the social networking piece: all of my friends see my comment to Pam, as do all of her friends.
Besides these often silly Status Updates people post photos, links to websites, and videos that they like. I'd have never read the New York Times article discussing White House photographers' favorite images of George W. Bush if Christopher hadn't posted the link on Facebook. Nor would I have watched the hilarious final Letterman episode of Great Moments in Presidential Speeches.
But wait, there's more! I've described only a handful of pellets available from Facebook's vast storage bin. There are Groups to join, people, places and things to become a Fans of, Petitions to sign and Causes to support.
Of course if that's not enough, you can start your own. When I launched my Cleveland, If only... website, a friend immediately set up a Facebook group that as of this moment has 311 members. Of those 300+ people, I'd guess that more than half would never have found the site without Facebook. Social networking again.
By now you get the idea. If you already have a Facebook page, how often do you check it in a typical day? Are you addicted? Share your thoughts via the "Comments" link below.
If you don't have a Facebook page and are still curious, I suggest you set one up right now and try it for a week or so. You can easily deactivate your account if you hate it. And again, please use the "Comments" link below to share your reaction.
OK, gotta go... should be some new Status Updates by now.