Just yesterday, Michelle Slatalla of The New York Times posted an article about her joining Facebook – where her daughter & friends have had accounts for quite a while. Her reason? Probably best put in her own words:
So last week I joined Facebook, the social network for students that opened its doors last fall to anyone with an e-mail address. The decision not only doubled its active membership to 24 million (more than 50 percent of whom are not students), but it also made it possible for parents like me to peek at our children in their online lair.1
But adults – and more specifically, parents – don’t belong on Facebook. Not because the system isn’t built for people over 30 nor because adults aren’t interested in moving existing relationships online, but only because Facebook and other Web 2.0 social network sites for students (and teens, too) are now what the mall was five years ago.
While Ms Slatalla goes off on a tangent, choosing to discuss the existence of mother-daughter ties online and her own troubled past (or something), there is a bigger picture there: why Facebook is so popular. Web 2.0 is all about taking things for real-life and putting them online.
Photo albums? Flickr. Diaries? Blogs. Home videos? YouTube. Book store? Amazon. Auction? eBay. And so on and so forth. So what does that make Facebook? Why Mall 2.0 of course!
You could argue that the very reason why Facebook is as popular as it is now is simply because it’s a place for friends – and friends alone – to get in touch and chill out… online. Unlike MySpace & Co. which are all about
prey and predators, as Jon Stewart so kindly points out putting up your info for the world to see, Facebook is a much more privacy-friendly website. People are glad to see that log-in page the minute you go to www.facebook.com – for them, it’s a shield, a protection, a layer of privacy, and a safeguard against all that is grown-up and too old to have fun.
“But adults want to make friends too!” Ms Slatalla explains. And there you have it, the biggest question of all. Is Facebook and the rest of the web a “First come, first serve” kind of gig, or is truly “a place for everyone?” Because, like it or not, there is an obvious clash coming. As the older generation’s interest is piqued in this new (and arguably better, more flexible, and much more convenient) form of networking and keeping in touch with your friends becomes more and more likely, will this drive the younger generation away from Facebook? It will, at the very least, most certainly change the way they look at it, that’s for sure.
So what’s the solution?
Facebook, for those young men and women that haven’t tried it yet (and the older people tabooed from joining!), is comprised of “Networks.” Since you’re a student of XX university, you’re therefore a member of the XX network. Since you live in Chicago, you’re eligible to “meet” others that live in Chicago. On Facebook, it suffices to have a single “network” in common with another person to “introduce” yourself, if you so choose. And of course, the person you’re contacting, in true Facebook spirit, can choose to reply, ignore you, or banish you forever off the face of their, err, Facebook.
So it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine Facebook adding a new “network” of sorts, one for the “older” generation (basically anyone with children old enough to have their own Facebook).
Unlike other networks on Facebook though, such a network should be mutually exclusive. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Chicago or not, whether you graduated from the same university (50 years earlier…) or not, if you’re in the “other” network, the “original” Facebook denizens should live their lives as if you weren’t there – and vice versa.
Facebook is an awesome place, for adults and young men & women alike. But unfortunately, many things in this are mutually exclusive, but that doesn’t mean that both can’t be there at the same time and enjoy themselves in their own little
island network, does it?
… Why not?!
Emphasis added. ↩