Friday, May 09, 2008

Why did I join Facebook?

It was bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose.

By "it," I mean signing up for Facebook. I'd held out for quite some time, my resolve bolstered by an informal straw poll I conducted this past January, in which my friends (not the Facebook variety) and interlocutors on D&R told me that I wasn't missing much by avoiding the popular social networking site.

LIARS!!!!!!!!!! Apparently just about everyone I know, or have ever known, was already on Facebook, which makes me about the last person on earth to join. I suppose it's worth narrating how I ended up there.

To put it as straightforwardly as possible, Twitter is the gateway drug for Facebook. Over the last year or so I'd incorporated various RSS news feeds onto my academic website, Bookworm, since I thought it might be nice to have some elements that updated constantly. I was never really satisfied with them, though, and so about a month or two ago, I made the fateful decision to join Twitter and place a badge on the site. I figured it might be a nice way to add real-time information about my research projects, conference presentations, publications, and so forth. And then something unexpected happened. People started following my Twitter feed, and eventually, I, theirs. It was riveting. One of my followers even proposed a picnic "Tweetup" to all his followers. Suddenly, I realized that virtual connections might indeed translate into "real world" ones.

I also blame Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point. I just started reading it in earnest the other night and became enthralled with his portrait of "connectors." These are people who know people--lots of people. Connectors are able to move in and across many different social circles, because they tend to maintain what Gladwell calls "weak ties." For them, connection is far more important than depth in a relationship, which allows them to stay in touch with a sprawling array of people. That sounded pretty Facebook to me.

So after much gnashing of teeth, I bit the bullet last night and signed up for Facebook. At 7:30 p.m., I registered. At 9:30 p.m., I had 17 friends. This morning, I have 28 and counting. I'm still not sure what to make of it all, honestly, but I'm intrigued to see how things develop. It's been nice reconnecting with old friends, though I fear for Facebook becoming a major time-suck. This was confirmed not only by the two hours I spent online last night, but also by some of the comments my friends had left on my Facebook wall. They said things to the effect of, "welcome to the black hole" and "sucker!"

I'll admit, I'm pretty awkward on Facebook right now. I can barely tell my profile page from my home page, and I have no idea what a zombie war is or why you'd want to fight one. I'm anxiously anticipating my colleague Ilana Gershon's book, therefore, which will provide a road map (among other things) to interpersonal dynamics on Facebook. For now, though, I'm really just fumbling through. Please bear with me.


Gil said...

Less than 24 hours ... and already writing "manifestos." Such a typical newbie thing to do... :)

PS: Not all of us are "LIARS," Some of us told you to c'mon in, 'cause the water was fine...

Ted Striphas said...

...I thought you'd say, "such a typical academic thing to do." Oh well.

As for your encouraging me to join Facebook, you did, indeed. But that was all part of your plan now, wasn't it?

Melissa said...

i recommend avoiding all zombies. too 2007. but you might consider buying gil and making him your pet!

Ted Striphas said...

Hi Melissa,

I've already been invited to a zombie war and bitten by a vampire--all within less than a week of joining FB. I can't imagine what week two will bring!

Caroline said...

I'm a teen and I think this is an interesting article - I know I use Facebook to catch up with my friends and use the applications for entertainment, but Facebook is interesting in that families can connect, relationships can be built or expanded upon, and businesses can reach out to new audiences via the website. It can definitely be confusing for newcomers, but it sure is fun! I write for a blog called Radical Parenting (, where teens give advice to parents. We have an article entitled "Degrees of Facebookability: Why Did You Join (Or Not)" which may add a new perspective. Feel free to check it out!