Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Not addicted to Friendster

When I received three invitations the same day, of course I had to check out Friendster. But unlike some, I am not addicted.

First, I should say that it is wonderful to see pictures of everyone. I love that. And it's even interesting to see who knows who. But you know what started to turn me off? Reading other people's tallies of their friends - as in, "Wow! I just logged in to Friendster and I now have 23 (or 48, or 69) friends!" That reeks of a competition to collect people - even though it does raise the interesting matter of quantity over quality.

The best message I got was from someone I have never met who found me through a mutual friend, and this person wrote "I thought you were a random friendster friend but it turns out he knows you!" Hmm - random Friendster friends versus "real" friends ... Nice distinction! Don't get me wrong - I don't think you need to have actually met someone to consider them a "friend" (that would rule out all sorts of people I only know online, but nonetheless value tremendously) but Friendster does not seem to express or capture quality of relationship very well. Sure, testimonials are helpful, but not when I have the ability to publish only the ones I like ...

Oh, I don't know. I just fail to see what's so exciting or useful about it. But then again, maybe it's just not for me. What do you think?

Same day UPDATE : Adam Greenfield takes a look at LinkedIn - a similar site geared towards professionals. Speaking of this type of application in general, Adam writes "I firmly believe that one of these sites, duly modified, or a scratch-built successor or successors, will catalyze huge changes in the way we socialize, connect, associate and construct our lives. Huge. This is completely uncontroversial to me." Huge? How so? And for whom? I'm guessing a person would have to already spend a great deal of time socialising online before this is so, and it is only the vast minority of people who do so ...

UPDATE 9/5/03 : OK. Now Adam is getting closer to what I was talking about when he writes, "Something tells me these services won't reach their maximum potential until they can incorporate our less salutary feelings about association: the latent but powerful distinctions we make, the dislikes and fears we, however subtly, import into our presentation of self." Yes! Friendster et al. flatten and homogenise. However, I wouldn't say that these models prevent compartmentalising as much as they begin with a model of interaction that cannot accomodate categories that overflow or leak - like the implied sense that all friends are equal - and that will always be inadequate ...


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