I bumped into an interesting article today called “Users of Facebook’s Social Network Are Mostly Anti-Social: Poll”.by Austin Carr. It was based on a study surveying close to 500 Facebook users’ behavior, conducted by Denmark-based Red Associates.
According to the study, 90% of the respondents expect that the social network will “deepen or strengthen their friendships”, yet more than half of respondents saw Facebook more as “a relationship-management tool” than an efficient manner to intensify the existing relationships. Only 0.7% consider Facebook to be only good for deepening friendships. I was quite surprised of the result, yet when I thought about my own and my friends’ behavior, there might be some truth in it.
Yes, most of the time your “Facebook friends” are not actually your friends. 40% of respondents agree with me on this, saying that they added “friends” to their Facebook only because they were just so easy to add. I try to filter this myself by not adding anyone I have not met in person or had a long correspondence/business relationship with. But my total number of “friends” on Facebook is still as high as 432. Now, I am an excellent friend, but unfortunately it is impossible to “deepen” my relationships with all these people.
The friends I have added are persons I went to kindergarten, primary school, high-school, university, and exchange with, persons I worked with in Finland, Spain and France and persons I have met during my travels or in specific events. I must say I feel quite nostalgic when I add a person I have not seen for 17 years on Facebook and it is nice to see what they are up to. But are we going to be intimate friends? I am not so sure.
The study reveals that nearly 50% of the surveyed users see Facebook more as a public phone book or search engine than a social network. It declares that for them the contact is minimal and impersonal, and almost 25% did not think that joining Facebook led to a better social life. “Facebook has no intelligent mechanism for figuring out who your close friends are or who you would like them to be”, the study says, “Online social networks make it easy for people to accumulate friends rapidly and to make commitments easily. What define social networks most [is] a lack of depth in relationships.”
This result leads Austin Carr to ask in his blog whether Facebook is only good for birthday-reminders and the occasional wall posts. No, not really. Facebook may not deepen the relationships with all your “friends”, but for example in my case my Facebook account helps me to “manage my relationships” by helping me to establish and maintain the contact with people, especially my dearest friends. It helps us to organize gatherings, movie nights, picnics…it is very easy to let someone know you are going his hometown, for example New York, and have a quick coffee with him. It has all the potential to make your social life more “social” and active, but you need to respect the same rules you do in real life: do not talk to people only because you want something, do not publish inappropriate or offending status, always respect people’s intimacy and especially: be proactive. Saying quick “hello” to someone you have not talked to for a while has not hurt anyone. And is very much appreciated.
So whether Facebook is “social” or not, depends highly on you and how you act in the community. To take full advantage of it, do not think it is only virtual. Your “friends” are real people with real feelings. And if in real life you do not bother to talk to people and try to establish a real relationship with them, your social life does not sound very good offline either, does it? Come on, give it a go and in few weeks you can see the result:)