Deprecating Facebook Part Two

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

Griffin Caprio left a thought provoking comment on my “Deprecating Facebook” post

Good write up Sean. Though your move isn’t as permanent as mine from last month:http://www.therealgriffin.com/post/639445681/goodbye-facebook

In the end, I just think Mark Z. is acting slimy. Having two personalities isn’t a lack of integrity; it’s a matter of focus. My clients wouldn’t want to hear my latest thoughts on college football, just as my college football friends couldn’t care less about the latest in my part-time CTO business.

He notes in “Goodbye Facebook

[I] started several months ago by slashing my friends from 200 to 100 to under 70. When I originally signed up, I made two rules: only personal friends would be allowed ( no biz contacts ) and only people I’ve met in person.

What I found out was that those rules weren’t enough. [..]

What started as a chance to make communicating with family and friends easier transformed into a virtual dinner party, where everyone exchanges vacuous small talk.[…] So I’m reducing the noise in my life and focusing on what’s actually important.

Caprio  continues in “Social Media Without the Social

Something always struck me as hollow about social networks. They make it very easy to create links with people where such links didn’t exist. It’s also supposed to make existing links stronger. While the latter could be true, what’s the value on the former? […]

I want to have a smaller number of quality relationships in my life, not increase the amount of transient relationships.

Caprio also cites “Facebook Suicide” by Carmen Joy King. It’s from 2008 but still makes for timely reading.

And yet, the time we waste on Facebook only makes our search for comfort and community more elusive. Online networking sites are marketed as facilitators of community-orientation but when I think about the millions of people – myself included – who spend large portions of their waking lives feeding off an exchange of thousands of computerized, fragmented images, it doesn’t add up to community-engagement.

What are some alternatives?

  • Face to face conversation in small groups.
  • Personal phone calls
  • Christmas letters with personal notes
  • Personal E-Mails
  • Specialized newsgroups and e-mail distribution lists
  • Whatever worked twenty years ago… or forty.
  • LinkedIn, Plaxo, and Xing for professional networks

Moore’s Law does not enable trust to  scale beyond human scale limits.  Not person to person trust. Robin Dunbar has suggested there is a natural limit of around 150 “tribe members” imposed by the limits of the human brain. For more on this topic see  Christopher Allen’s excellent series of posts that start with”The Dunbar Number.”

In “Corporation Man” Anthony Jay suggests that there is a natural limit of 500 for a tribe size based on an analysis of human history. He offers one very powerful rule of thumb that I have come to see the wisdom of: use systems to replace and augment memory, but minimize systems that replace face to face communication. Chris Brogan’s “Beating Dunbar’s Number” is really about systems for extending and enhancing your memory of people’s needs,  interests, and strengths not automating your communication with them. Brogan also notes:

I have a very small number of quality relationships, and by that, I mean people that I share far more, and with whom I have a deeper emotional connection. I know how to make close friends. This isn’t about that.

Clay Shirky identifies the human brain as the best tool for building and managing trust in “A Group Is It’s Own Worst Enemy” (bold added)

“Who said what when” is the minimum requirement for having a conversation…I need to associate who’s saying something to me now with previous conversations.

The world’s best reputation management system is right here, in the brain. And actually, it’s right here, in the back, in the emotional part of the brain. Almost all the work being done on reputation systems today is either trivial or useless or both, because reputations aren’t linearizable, and they’re not portable.

There are people who cheat on their spouse but not at cards, and vice versa, and both and neither. Reputation is not necessarily portable from one situation to another, and it’s not easily expressed.

eBay has done us all an enormous disservice, because eBay works in non-iterated atomic transactions, which are the opposite of social situations. eBay’s reputation system works incredibly well, because it starts with a linearizable transaction — “How much money for how many Smurfs?” — and turns that into a metric that’s equally linear.

That doesn’t work well in social situations. If you want a good reputation system, just let me remember who you are. And if you do me a favor, I’ll remember it. And I won’t store it in the front of my brain, I’ll store it here, in the back. I’ll just get a good feeling next time I get email from you; I won’t even remember why. And if you do me a disservice and I get email from you, my temples will start to throb, and I won’t even remember why. If you give users a way of remembering one another, reputation will happen, and that requires nothing more than simple and somewhat persistent handles.

Carmen Joy King’s “Facebook Suicide” concludes with this sentence:

As I sit here, keyboard under palm, eyes on screen, I try to remind myself that my hands and eyes need to venture out into the community and look and touch the truly tangible that lies just beyond that other big screen: my window.

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