Friday, June 20, 2008

The 5 Phases of Facebook: A Love Story

As my last blog entry indicates, I have been a bit- OK, a LOT- distracted by Facebook lately. If you have been living under a rock or in Binghamton, NY, Facebook (FB) is a social networking site that is definitely for grown-ups and can be used for professional purposes, but has just enough bells and whistles to constitute quasi-"entertainment." I am far enough into the trajectory that I can start to see the phases of the FB love affair, which are:

Phase I: Skepticism

For about a year, I was consistently receiving emails from all sorts of people, asking me to join FB or, once I created a basic profile account, to be my "friend." Figuring that this "Facebook" thing was yet another passing online social trend, I found 100% of these 50-or-so contacts to be annoying, but I politely obliged.

So there I sat, with my 50 "friends" who occasionally did inexplicable things like "(insert name of random person here) has challenged you to a game of Mob Wars." or "(so and so) wants you to rate their personality." Hmmm, perhaps this FB thing is more like MySpace than LinkedIn? Either way, I'm DEFINITELY not taking any part in THIS "fun."

Phase II: Fear

At some point, I figured out that my every move on FB was being broadcast to the rest of my FB network (and possibly to the world?) Not sure the reach of this accidental broadcast stream, but I quickly discovered, and made friends with, the FB "privacy" settings. No matter. The damage was done: I had been spooked and it would take me months to jump back on the FB horse. Even side-saddle.

Phase III: Excitement

Around April, John started reconnecting with a crazy assortment of people from high school. Apparently, someone from his class had started recruiting classmates to get on FB, and the party was ON. And THAT sounded like a party I wanted to attend.

I logged into my dusty account- did I even have a profile photo at that point?- and took FB for a spin. Hey! Isn't that the nice kid who sat next to me in World History in 10th grade? "Friend" him, I will! Former Speaker of the California Assembly? Super nice guy I sat next to one time at a a dinner party in 2004? I friend you!

On this exuberant friending spree, I dug deep (a bit too deep) and doubled my friends network within a few days. I wasn't trying to prove anything (or was I?) I just got excited to see so many long-lost faces staring back at me, just an "Add as Friend" click away.

Phase III-A: Evangelism

I am adding this as a sub-phase because I realize that not every FB-lover will experience it. FB makes it really easy to invite the people in your email contacts, and my personality dictates that OF COURSE I wanted more people to come to my FB party. Former colleague from 4 years ago? All the girls in my high school crew? I sent them corny FB invitation emails like, "Jump on in- the water's great!" What a DORK. Not surprisingly, not a ton of success with this effort. I think I reeked of desperation. No matter. When they finally overcome Phase I, they'll thank me for planting the seed, right?

To facilitate all my peeps finding each other, without having to do it all myself on an individual basis, I started FB groups for my High School, College and Business School classes. That way, when someone new flies into the FB net, they will most likely find their way to one of these groups, where I can easily farm them for my own network.

The combination of Phase III and III-A led to a very motley and incongruous collection of FB friends. Crap. Now I was in trouble. Time to prune the list (this is about the time I learned the term "de-friend," which is now my Favorite Word of the Month- subtle and yet so insulting, all at the same time.)

Given that I was spooked by FB's tendencies to broadcast your activity (see Phase II), how do I get rid of some of these people I added in my over-friending spree? without committing a breach of netiquette? If I de-friend you, are you going to know it? Crisis. Research was in order. Which led me to . . .

Phase IV: Obsession

It started out innocently enough: I wanted to learn a bit more about the culture, custom and etiquette of FB before going further. I had about 140 FB friends (shall we come up with a new word, to try to distinguish from my actual friends? Nah, that line is getting blurrier by the day, so why split hairs now?)

Apparently I was not the first to have burning questions about how a polite person should conduct themselves on FB. This woman in England has an entire blog devoted to it. After a couple weeks of online research, and urgent emails to some of my loyal blog readers (hi Jonelle!), I felt comfortable navigating and adding to my new FB life. I even decided against pruning my burgeoning FB network. For now, at least.

This phase seems to be the most protracted. FB has so many facets, not to mention all the people you haven't talked to since high school and have to catch up with, that the Obsession phase can last for . . . not sure yet, sorry to say.

I can report that I am mostly "over" seeing the old high school chums on FB, although that has been really fun. But how come my high school isn't listed? nor my college? Not to worry, classmates, I am currently in communication with FB officials about getting CMC and RHHS added (not joking). Perhaps I am in a Phase IV ripple, as I most recently find myself obsessed with FB as a movement (it is the sixth most heavily trafficked website now?) and even-gasp!- wanting to learn about the technology-geek aspects. What makes my new best-friend tick?

Phase V: Balance

I will not pretend I am personally familiar with this phase, but I can imagine that it must exist. Actually, that might not be true, since I have yet to meet anyone who has attained it. Perhaps that is because the bulk of my communication lately has been on FB, with other FB-lovers.

At the rate I am going (my new fascination is with "status updates" and that could take me weeks to work through!), I will not achieve the sought-after Balance phase any time soon. It will likely be evidenced by more regular blogging, about things that are not FB-related, which is inconceivable to me at present.

And last night I enabled FB mobile so I can twitter status updates from my cell phone . . . uh-oh.


DC said...

Love it! Thanks for getting me addicted. (Jerk.) ;)

wheeedle said...

is adding 'facebook mobile' a sign that you have entered the Balance phase?

Marie said...

So guess what Marie does the night before her birthday? Reads Annie's blog. I just finished a friending spree and recalled your 5 Phases of Facebook thing, so I googled you to find the blog. Very fun. I'm still in Phase 4--not yet in Facebook Mobile, as you know. Perhaps tomorrow. Meanwhile, come back to LA! Now! xoxo, Marie

Judy Nelson said...

Hi Anne,
Eric just sent me your blog on FB and it's delightful! You are talented in so many ways but you definitely ought to consider a writing career.
There's another audience for this blog that you may not have thought of: all the parents (and grandparents!) of your generation who can't quite figure out exactly what FB is.
Congrats on a great article--and keep blogging!
p.s. Will you be my friend? :)


Kai said...

This is such a good resource Anne... thanks again for sending it!