Lots of talk lately about Facebook’s upcoming IPO (Initial Public Offering). One industry rag even said that Facebook’s IPO is by itself ushering in the social era, the 4th “era” of computing. But, wait, I thought we were already in the social era?
Sure, there is a lot of excitement around this IPO for good reason. Lots of people are going to make lots of money. Hundreds of millions of people use the service. It is a good service, not great, yet a popular one at that.
Still, I have to wonder if the utility is wearing thin. (Think: Timeline. Ugh!) I, for one, think we’ve been in the “social era” for years and didn’t need Facebook to tell me I was.
Case in point. The minute our society became mobile, we became social. Mobile = social. And that happened before Facebook, only people don’t like to talk about that. In fact, lots of companies out there selling digital advertising are using the slogan “So-Lo-Mo”. Social, local, mobile. This slogan is not cutting edge and has been around for years. What people refer to as social media, which let’s face it – is inclusive basically of Facebook and Twitter only (I boost LinkedIn above those because it actually has a niche) – means that you’re able to connect and interact with people easier than you could years ago. Want to find that old high school sweetheart? Easy. How about your old prom date? You can easily find him/her too.
All of this is great and certainly an advancement over what we’ve had before in terms of connecting and socializing with people. My question is: is this “social” or is it “anti-social”? Is the act of typing on a keyboard, facelessly, to someone you haven’t seen in 10-20 years, “social”? I suppose the answer to that question is how you use computing and social media to begin with or what your perspective is. But, I would say by and large, social often really means “anti-social”. Why?
Because when I think of someone or some cause or something as “social”, I think of being out and about. Physically with people, because nothing takes the place for in-person communication. Certainly Facebook does not replace that, and no one can convince me it does. Social refers to someone that lives the life amongst the masses, or at least groups of people they like to socialize with. Someone who frequently goes out with friends and is actually – physically – social. I guess I side with the tangible nature of being social, not the intangible. I never have bought into the idea that you could sit at a keyboard and be considered the most social person because you had the most Facebook friends. It doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I’m old in my 30′s. I’m not even pushing 40 yet.
Now, this is not at all what people who live and breathe social media – and just social media in their bubble – everyday would want us all to believe. Quite the contrary. Why do you think Facebook spokespeople said just today that their goal is to get people to use their service much more frequently, and to turn their users into power users? Is it because they really and truly want the world to be more social and believe in the cause? Maybe. But probably not. They want to make more money. Which is fine, I’m all for capitalism. But I think hiding behind smokescreens, and saying they’re creating this new era (which by the way has been around since the early 2000′s) just because they have a massive platform to do so is inaccurate.
I use Facebook, I like it. I don’t love it. It doesn’t consume me. I don’t think I’m any more or less “social” because I use it or log in 2x/day versus 18x/day. There are things I enjoy about it, but things I dislike about it. It is a good communication platform and allows you to easily connect with people you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.
The major grievance I have is calling this platform a “new era” based of the hundreds of millions of users, right now. Having users doesn’t make you a movement unless you convince them so, and maybe Facebook has what others 8 years ago didn’t. It is popular for sure. But not everyone gets the same satisfaction out of it. I would even go so far as to say that Facebook makes people anti-social. I know, I know. It depends on how you refer to the word social, because people communicating with massive amounts of people online might think it is social.
I simply disagree with that. Not to mention, the social era arrived years ago. We just didn’t have a huge IPO in the mid-2000′s labeled social media or “new era”.
Not to mention x 2 , I’ve always believed anything that has such wide adoption has to be flawed. If too many people are behind it, we’re missing something. I know we are. It’s a sign to run the other way, IMO.