Cory Thinks Facebook Is Doomed

Science fiction writer and commentator Cory Doctorow thinks Facebook is just as doomed as its predecessors:

Keeping track of our social relationships is a serious piece of work that runs a heavy cognitive load. It’s natural to seek out some neural prosthesis for assistance in this chore. My fiancee once proposed a “social scheduling” application that would watch your phone and email and IM to figure out who your pals were and give you a little alert if too much time passed without your reaching out to say hello and keep the coals of your relationship aglow. By the time you’ve reached your forties, chances are you’re out-of-touch with more friends than you’re in-touch with: Old summer-camp chums, high-school mates, ex-spouses and their families, former co-workers, college roomies, dot-com veterans… Getting all those people back into your life is a full-time job and then some.

You’d think that Facebook would be the perfect tool for handling all this. It’s not. For every long-lost chum who reaches out to me on Facebook, there’s a guy who beat me up on a weekly basis through the whole seventh grade but now wants to be my buddy; or the crazy person who was fun in college but is now kind of sad; or the creepy ex-co-worker who I’d cross the street to avoid but who now wants to know, “Am I your friend?” yes or no, this instant, please.

It’s not just Facebook and it’s not just me. Every “social networking service” has had this problem and every user I’ve spoken to has been frustrated by it. I think that’s why these services are so volatile: why we’re so willing to flee from Friendster and into MySpace’s loving arms; from MySpace to Facebook. It’s socially awkward to refuse to add someone to your friends list — but removing someone from your friend-list is practically a declaration of war. The least-awkward way to get back to a friends list with nothing but friends on it is to reboot: create a new identity on a new system and send out some invites (of course, chances are at least one of those invites will go to someone who’ll groan and wonder why we’re dumb enough to think that we’re pals).

One thought on “Cory Thinks Facebook Is Doomed”

  1. Isn’t this more the problem that it says “friends” and there is no means of grouping them somehow.. I would think “contact” is maybe a better word and if there would be the ability to group people together like flickr does would help a lot. I think one simply shouldn’t take that concept to strict. I have many people on that list who I never might have met or have no idea who they are but having them on the list is some way of getting to know them and that’s cool 🙂
    Of course sharing more intimate photos etc. I wouldn’t want to do that with everybody thus I think groups and permissions are needed here.

    As for the doom factor I think it’s just a question of how annoying some network gets. Facebook is on a good way there to get very annoying and beacon discussions etc. won’t help. Also those applications might have been a great idea in the beginning but how many useful ones are actually out there? Add to that the data silo mentality and you might drive people away in the long run.

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