Social networking: When worlds collide

Biz Stone, I think is right that the phenomenon called Twitter is really very analogous to birds – for example flocks of starlings – wheeling about in the sky.

But I’m not sure I want to be a bird flocking where all the other birds flock together. Twitter certainly has its uses as all sorts of people have pointed out, and while I have an account, I’m not sure that I can put the time and energy into it to become one of the real twitterati. Nor that sure I have enough things I want to say in 140 characters or less.

I’ve certainly got a bigger beef against Facebook – there have been so many security leaks and so many cockups where people have lost jobs, have entered emotional spats and the like, as countless as the starlings in this Youtube video.

I met a friend yesterday who uses Facebook. She tells me that she’s had requests for friendship from people who she doesn’t really like – she keeps her Facebook friends confined to people who really are friends. I’ve taken a different approach – anyone who wants to be my friend can be my friend – that’s why I seem to have 515 friends. Of course it’s generally reckoned that a human being can only have five or six close friends at the most, so 510 of these people are mostly contacts and acquaintances.  I haven’t a clue who some of them are – and they probably feel exactly the same about me.

Facebook, however, has some distinctly useful features which is, no doubt, why it is compelling. I’ve managed to find people who I’ve been out of contact with for years – and it’s also a very useful way to mail people without having to search through my email client.

I sort of like it when it suggests friends to you on the basis of mutual friends.  Some enemies or other inappropriate people pop up all the time, and it’s very tempting to me when I’ve had a pint of beer or six to invite them to be my friend. Or what if you have two FB friends who hate each other? That’s a diplomatic nightmare.  Unfriending is very dangerous, it seems to me – it’s really a declaration of war.

I don’t think that I can agree with Saul Klein, speaking at Silicon Valley comes to Oxford earlier this week that five years from now Facebook will have trounced Google. The two are fundamentally different kinds of things, with different business models. Google is a bit dangerous too, but for very different reasons from FB.. And Linkedin is for the grown ups, while I do actually think there will always be a place for Twitter. Plus I liked Biz Stone – he has a sense of humour.  He quipped that he went to see The Social Network at a cinema.

On his own.