Are you a nerd, a geek, a dork or a dweeb?
In a new media class at the university everyone always has some kind of addiction. There are students who are addicted to games, some who are addicted to blogs, others to dating sites or stream-videos and chats. Eventually, they become experts and professors teaching about their own addiction. Well, I am one of them. And I am addicted to social networking site. I’m a member and frequent user of Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin (and many others I rarely use). This week I can finally celebrate my addiction because the assignment is about social networking sites, so instead of struggling to get my homework done being distracted every minute by a new Facebook update, a funny quiz or a new photo album by a friend, I can fully dedicate myself to my distractions and write about it.
First of all, at the moment my favorite social networking site is Facebook, so I will focus my reflection on it. Comparison with other networks is unavoidable though. There is a number of reason why I prefer Facebook to other social networking sites:
1. Facebook is international
I live in the Netherlands and I come from Italy, I’ve lived also in Austria and I’ve met many people from all over the world. So Hyves is not an option. Too Dutch. Facebook is known and used in many different countries for some reason, and almost anyone has a Facebook account. I can write in English, Italian, Dutch, French, German and still there will be always someone in my contacts who will understand. At the same time, everyone who wants to get my updates will see them, even if they are in another language. This also makes possible for me to see stuff in Indonesians, Chinese, Arabic and in other languages I ignore. Which I think it is kind of fun.
2. You can hide people from your wall, without losing them as contacts
Ever thought about adding that old schoolfriend you haven’t seen for ages, and then discovered he hasn’t changed at all and it does bother you to have his stupid, or sexist, or aggressive undesired updates on your wall? Well, you can hide him/her. But he/she will never know because he/she will still be a contact of yours. And in case you become interested or you want to catch up with him/her, you can still delete the “hide” option or go to his personal page.
3. Facebook is the new bookmarking list
Posting something is not only a way to share interesting stuff with your friends. It is also a way to keep track of what you visit on-line and you can always go back to your older posts and look for that particular link you need. This can also happen with your friend’s pages. So Facebook has become a little bit of my new bookmarking site.
4. It is faster than emails
I don’t like emails anymore. Go to the website, open the in-box, open the email, click on “replay”, write the email, click on “send”, wait, email sent. And wait for a replay. Instead, write on the wall that is already there because you were chilling on Facebook. Then your friend will just have to comment and you can comment back. Easy and fast.
5. Find Very Important Unknown Persons for help
My mother-in-law speaks only Wolof and I don’t understand more than 10 words of it. So once I wanted to send her a message and I found myself in front of a communication wall. I had no idea what to do. What I eventually did is searching for the word “wolof” and “senegal” in Facebook, open a group-page and contact the administrator asking for a favor. Then I sent him the content of the message and he translated it from Italian to Wolof. So I discovered that Facebook can be very useful for finding the right person for a task and directly getting in contact with that person. Because not many people have a personal web-page or present themselves with a specific function or expertise, they would be otherwise not reachable for someone who needs their help.
In the same way I also used Facebook for conducting the empirical research for my bachelor thesis.
6. Enhances personal relationships
Some people state that Facebook makes us asocial, because we loose contact with the real world and we prefer to communicate with our friends through a computer than in real life. Well, in my case Facebook makes it possible to keep in touch with old friends I would probably never see again, as well as to maintain more constant relationships with people I regularly meet but I have no time to visit frequently. Also, through Facebook profiles you can share more with your friends than you would do in real world. People tend to discover links and similarities with others and share and comment on content that they post on the wall. This kind of on-line relationship create new levels of social interaction that cannot exist in real world.
This week I went a step further and designed a Facebook quiz. I always wanted to do it and never did. For some reason I’ve always been curious about how much the creator can know about the results of the quiz. Also during my thesis research I considered the possibility of using a Facebook quiz instead of an interview.
Facebook quizzes are very popular. They can also be used for research because they can be easily spread and users like them. The quiz I created is called Are you a nerd, a geek, a dork or a dweeb?, it is only for fun and is not meant to research how socially disabled Facebook users are, but it is possible to think of a number of situations where spreading a Facebook Quiz would be useful to gather some kind of information for a specific goal. Research purpose are more relevant to me than for instance marketing, but I guess that a number of company could use Facebook Quiz Applications to harvest very personal information about their customers and use it to better sell their product or to adjust their customer relation management strategy.
Some observation on this little experiment are now available on my personal blog.