Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
February 29, 2012 8:05 AM

The Face Of Facebook

Is Facebook making us all the same?

We have our unique friends and interests meshed with our families, with a dash of our professional lives put in there for good measure. But, is Facebook really the place that highlights our originality? In the early days of the Internet (pre-Social Media), there was some worry that portals like Yahoo and AOL were delivering a very generic and sanitized media experience (much like broadcast television with limited and fixed choices). As publishing tools became more readily available and individuals began to harness the power of Web design, we became inundated with new, quirky and interesting types of media. This expanded further when images, audio and video became as easy to publish online as text. Social Media completely changed this direction again, enabling and empowering individuals to not only self-publish but to collaborate and share.

It's a Facebook world, and we're all just living in it.

Research Brief published the news item, Face To Face With Ubiquity, on Monday citing some fairly staggering data points about Facebook:

  • Facebook.com captures one in every eleven Internet visits in the US.
  • 1 in every 5 page views occurs on Facebook.com.
  • The average visit time on Facebook.com is 20 minutes.
  • Facebook.com users are highly loyal to the website; 96% of visitors to Facebook.com were returning visitors in January 2012.
  • Facebook.com's largest footprint is in Canada, capturing almost 12% of all visits in that market.

There's the Internet... and there's the Facebook Internet.

This begs the question: what does Facebook look like? Based on this type of data, the answer has suddenly become staggeringly simple: Facebook is us. While individual pages may be as unique as our individual fingerprints, we must realize that this type of ubiquity is great to find common ground but very difficult to have powerful moments of serendipity. Years ago, I made the argument that we need more than our own RSS feeds for information, because if all we're doing is looking at what we like, this (probably) would make our perspectives that much more myopic. It's something important to think about: if all we're ever doing on Facebook is looking at our own profiles (and those of people we know), it could well be disconnecting us from amazing and different opportunities that are right over the horizon.

I love Facebook.

It's an amazing channel to connect and share. That being said, I'm also very leery of any one, individual, place that commands that much attention. So long as there is diversity and not homogeny, it is powerful.

Let's keep it powerful.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Bill Laidlaw
    Mitch Joel

    I am not so sure my Facebook experience is any different than my life Pre-Internet Mitch. In comparison twenty years ago I would open a morning paper that could be 100 pages in size and routinely scan only a fraction. Starting with the front page and occasionally dig deeper on a topic, then open the business section followed by the sports section. It was 15 to 30 minutes of my daily life. I missed most of what was within that medium, what happened in the world (according to them), every day out of habit. Then and now we could/can make the choice to investigate elsewhere and many did/do. The more things change the more they stay the same.

    Reply
    • I'm not sure I agree with this 100%, Bill. When Editors are curating content, it's a very different media experience than a world where all we're looking at are our own bellybuttons (our Facebook profiles). We've gone from curious and open to serendipity to narcissism in a very short time.

      Reply
  • Posted by Daniel Decker
    Mitch Joel

    I think what you said above says it all... "Facebook is us." How we choose to use it will determine what we get out of it. Sure, FB (the company) can mold how that interaction occurs but at the end of the day it's still about us.

    Reply
  • Posted by Tom Webster
    Mitch Joel

    I realize I am a cranky snob about this sort of thing, but I do worry that with the increasing ubiquity of Facebook, and (more alarmingly) the continued creep of social data into search results, the Internet is telling us what we want to hear, rather than what we need to hear (or what is even correct). It is, however, my responsibility to curate my own Facebook (or Twitter, or Crap.ly or whatever) experience. I suspect that those of us who maintain a rigorously homogenous view of life on Facebook probably do the same in real life. I'd like to blame the tool, but I'm afraid I can't muster a defensible argument, really. I'm left where you are, Mitch - let's keep it powerful.

    Reply
  • Posted by Carl Brabander
    Carl Brabander

    Sales tax was a temporary measure to fund the war effort, and computers were going to enable us to have more leisure time. Sometimes the vision gets twisted by reality. Facebook may in theory enable self-expression -- but IMO clearly accelerates the spread of pop culture themes, ideas, and values via peer pressure. Of course, this is good news for marketers...

    Reply
  • Posted by George Fiala
    Mitch Joel

    FB is like my old condo corp (freehold town homes), while you could not change the colors on the building, you could make changes to the garden, walk way or yard, to make it your own. So, there is room to make your FB profile your own. This is not the case on other platforms (LinkedIn), where one must maintain that uniformity.

    Reply
    • Not only do I find that Facebook makes all profiles look the same, I'm not sure I have an issue with this. Do you remember MySpace? While people say that they loved the fact that you could personalize the page, it made for an non-unified experience.

      Reply
  • Posted by Ernest Barbaric
    Mitch Joel

    I guess another question would be if Facebook is the next AOL? Crazy amount of market penetration and dominance - but for how long?

    It's hard to imagine Facebook still being THE network when we become "older generation", although it seems that any new social network that pops up uses either the Facebook or Twitter APIs to increase sign-ins.

    Not to mention if / when things change with shareholder pressure for higher profits.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rob MacArthur
    Rob MacArthur

    There's an interesting Ted Talk on how Facebook (and Google and likely many other sites) actually works against those moments of serendipity and even removes perspectives from your FB feed that differ from the links you click on most.

    This link from the Telegrapgh in the UK sums up the author's point and links to his Ted Talk: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/willheaven/100093155/the-filter-bubble-is-a-sinister-phenomenon-but-eli-parisers-alternative-sounds-even-worse/

    Reply
  • Posted by Philip Powell
    Mitch Joel

    Yes it is...and I think by intent. Any property of that size (meaning community) has to be risk averse by design and when we eliminate risk, we eliminate a great deal of discovery. It is the "greatest strength is the greatest weakness" dilema, we can connect and share but by and large in known quantities, the ability to discover is constrained by the limitations of our network (and as many people strive for greater levels of privacy on FB that network becomes more and more sanitized). Cat videos, the occasional political rant and wedding pictures is what makes FB work and what makes it Hotel Ubiquitous.

    Reply
  • Posted by Matt At Social Media Frontiers
    Mitch Joel

    It's all about what you put into it. Facebook gives you the tools and to shape our profiles, but it's all about the content that upload and enter.

    Reply
  • Great thought provoking post. We realize that FB uses us for their gain by giving us what we want. We live in a capitalistic society we should have no issue with this. But we do. I think we have two camps, first provides everything with know issue and then we have the group that realizes that everything we do online is traceable and does not want to be exposed. My personal thoughts on this, give them everything they need to know to provide the best experience and service possible. If the brand or service does not meet expectation they have know excuse. I gave them everything they need to know.

    Reply
  • Posted by Grace Montage
    Mitch Joel

    Facebook takes the world by storm and almost all of us were amazed in this website to the point that FB is already a part of our lifestyle… a lifestyle that we could almost forget the basic and essential way of getting information and to effectively communicate with people. It's one of the things that people might realize that this kind of ubiquity has pros and cons and I believe that as long as FB is part of our daily routine, we will always make FB powerful.

    Reply
  • I think this pretty much sums up the internet as of right now (and the world) "It's a Facebook world, and we're all just living in it." Especially since China's internet block was down recently allowing people there to get a taste of Facebook. It's becoming increasingly rare that you find a person with out Facebook these days. If people don't have an account they atleast know about it. The 5 year-old that I babysit knows what Facebook is! It really is a Facebook world.

    Reply
  • Posted by Nick Bennett
    Mitch Joel

    I do feel that Facebook is allowing like minded people to only read and view and share with other like minded people. This herding of thoughts is scary and could lead to more group think and a break down in critical thinking. Since you simply have to hide or un-follow those that do not think the way you do you become less exposed to other thoughts.

    Reply
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