Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Is Social Media Like a Party?

Hofball in Wien - Wilhelm Gause
Amid all the uproar over Facebook's latest redesign of the newsfeed and some possibly huge pending announcements today (disclosure: links are to CNET, I work for CNET, and all views expressed herein are completely my own), there were some... well, murmurs in my feeds about Facebook having jumped the shark. Myspace was a trending topic on Twitter for much of the day and even my mom complained about the changes.

Facebook has seen its share of blowback from customers before, but this is its first backlash moment at the time when there's a shiny new alternate social network waiting in the wings: Google+.

I don't know that it's as bad as all that and it's seriously difficult to imagine Facebook going the way of Myspace (which, by the way, isn't dead yet), but I do think it's still an open question whether there will ever be such a thing as a permanent social network.

My metaphor for social networks: It's like a party.

At first you're there because you got an invite from someone you really like, it's just your close friends, you have a great time catching up and you have the run of the joint. Then a few more people show up, and it starts getting a little crowded, but hey, it's still fun and you play some fun games. Then that person you barely know shows up and pretty soon that person you never really liked in high school has trapped you in a corner and is forcing politics down your throat and eventually you look around and there are so many people you can barely move.

And then your parents show up and the party is over.

Facebook may well be too big to fail and people have definitely invested a lot of time in their presence there. I can't imagine my mom jumping over to Google+ just because the news feed changed.

At the same time, early social media explorers are already busy colonizing Google+, Tumblr, and other emerging social media platforms. There is definitely some appeal in regrouping with your closest friends and starting a new party.

At some point those friend lists that you built... well, they get messy and unwieldy, it's awkward and time consuming to unfriend all the people you don't really want to follow, and there's a lot of appeal in just starting over from scratch. I've already done it with Friendster, then Myspace, then Facebook, and now I'm enjoying starting over yet again on Google+ (my profile is here btw).

What do you think? Are the (relative) social media veterans Facebook and Twitter here to stay or will we always be looking for a new fiesta?


Mr. D said...

I'm done starting over. I have Facebook, but I never put that much time into it. No Google+ for me, thanks. I'm keeping the blog, I'l keep my presence on Facebook, but the majority of my computer time is spent WRITING MY BOOKS!

Beverly Diehl said...

Too bad in real life we can't just start over - I've got a list of friends and family I'd like to thin...

We're all using FB and Twitter for free, and the advertising & data mining - at least at this time - isn't too intrusive. People like what they're used to, so unless the pain of staying outweighs the pain of jumping ship, most people will stay right where they are. [Pass the chips and the remote control]

Joanne Huspek said...

Facebook IS like a party, which is why when I spend too much time on it, my words per day drops to a scant hundred or so... I'm glad they changed up the format, it's another reason NOT to go there. (Not that I don't enjoy it, I enjoy it too much.)

Funny comment about the parents showing up. My son was a college student when he invited me to Facebook. I think I was one of the first moms on it. :-) My daughter, I had to bribe to friend me. No college cash until she did. Facebook is sometimes the only way I know what she's up to!

Anonymous said...

I think people will absolutely jump ship if something better comes along or a company rubs them the wrong way. Just check out all the insanity happening with Netflix's recent decisions and bad PR. Folks are jumping out of that burning ship faster than new people are boarding.

kellye said...

Great analogy about the party, Nathan! For quite a while I haven't really liked Facebook, but all my friends (and everybody else) is there. I haven't jumped into Google+ because I've been too busy to check it out. Honestly, I'd forgotten about it until you mentioned it.

One thing that really bothers me is that there are so many other places online that encourage me to "sign in with Facebook." I was doing that for a while because it's so easy, but then I started thinking about...hey, I'm giving FB a lot of info about me, and I've stopped.

Like so many other fans of your blog, I'm an aspiring author. Part of me feels that writers can't afford NOT to be on Facebook. What do you think? (I gave up my blog in 2007 when I had two jobs and no time to work on my novel-in-progress.)

I love Twitter and hope it continues. I'm seriously thinking of leaving FB, but not just because of this new snag.

Taylor Napolsky said...

Ha Mr. D always gets the first comment!

I think it's wise that Facebooks is constantly changing things. People complain, but then they get used to it.

Maybe Facebook's new users won't always be skyrocketing. And some people will surely switch to Google Plus or balance their time between several networks. But overall I think Facebook is mighty. It's a brand that's here to stay.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I think the movers and shakers will always be open to new platforms, and everyone else will be more inclined to stay put. I think it's more about an individual's personality than anything else.

But, a poor choice by a veteran like Facebook will put off new people from joining.

CourtLoveLeigh said...

TUMBLR TUMBLR TUMBLR (and a little twitter here and there)

Those are my weapons of choice. Facebook has never been my fave, so I'm feeling rather apathetic about all the "new facebook" ire. We'll get over it, one way or another.

Rick Daley said...

I think our society has an attention span measured in seconds. The next shiny social networking site to glisten along the tubes of the Internet will make people ooh and ahh for a little while. We are, by nature, party-hoppers and no one bandwagon can boast exclusivity with the American people.

That being, said, we are also creatures of habit and once something formally takes hold it's hard to shake it off. Unfortunately this applies to the cast of Jersey Shore as much as it does Facebook.

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm sure things will continue to evolve, hopefully for the better. I see more potential in Google + but it isn't there yet, mostly because a lot of the people I care about connecting with aren't on it yet.

Have you seen the parody video of Mark Z running into Tom from MySpace at the bar?

Cathy Yardley said...

I think Twitter's like a cocktail party. I used to have the same sort of social anxiety around it, actually... being at a party where you don't know anyone. That said, I think that the key is learning to be social no matter what the platform. If I can't manage that, then what difference does it make where I'm signed up, right?

Taylor Napolsky said...

I just can't get into Google plus. I mean, I use it but I can go a day or two without logging in, easy. Facebook I check by habit, multiple times a day, even though I seldom actually talk to people on there.

Twitter is my favorite, by far. I use it every day and talk to people.

abc said...

I think that is a pretty great analogy. But I really enjoy Facebook and I don't really enjoy parties. So there's that.

People don't like change, do they? The new newsfeed confuses me, but I assume I'll figure it out.

clickerbug said...

I've been on facebook since 2007, when I was a college student. It's been a lot of things to me over the years. First, a way to slowly get to know my fellow students. A place to play games that let other people know me better (i.e. "What kind of philosopher are you?")

Then fb redesigned and put the games in the "back bedroom" so to speak, in order to emphasize status updates and personal interaction. We all complained, but I think that was their best move to date.

I started seeing facebook explode after that. Got to know a lot more people, and making friends with strangers became fun and easy. Lots of people from my past signed up and we reconnected, which was HUGELY life-changing for many of us.

The next major redesign started allowing businesses to take a lot of screen space. I am fine with that as long as those companies maintain a personal presence, but I discovered that many of my broader connections became hidden in the clutter. As interactions grew scarce, the fb "top commenters" algorhythm assured that those relationships would die. This made me sad.

Now my daily interactions are really quite limited to only a few dozen of my 450+ "friends." And with the changes, it seems even those interactions are feeling strangled.

I think you're right, the block party has become a huge commercial festival where the music is so loud that you can't hear your friends speak. I don't think Google+ is the answer though ... I just added a stranger to my circles and interacting with him is just strange. It's like watching him talk to himself in an empty room.

Facebook won't completely die anytime soon, but people are definitely texting their friends, asking where the new party is.

D.G. Hudson said...

I think the trendsetters will always be looking for a new party. Social media (various aspects) can be very much like 'high school' or a 'party' in context. Partygoers always want to be ahead of the unwashed masses.

Having a web presence is needed, but we could all become whirling dervishes if we try to balance a multitude of social media or keep jumping ship to recreate ourselves.

Like Mr. D., I like blogging as it forces me to explore different subjects as I'm writing, although I try to be informative to any visitors that might stop by.

I keep two blogs and will have a web page when appropriate. I've considered Google+ since I never dived into Facebook. And no, I'm not Twitter-pated, either.

A writer must choose how to spend his time, and that's what I do. We only have so many hours in a day in which to fit home, work, and pleasure/play.

Haven't you noticed, Nathan, that your time is more crunched now that you divide it between more avenues of social media?

Anonymous said...

"And then your parents show up and the party is over."


And this time, with facebook, I'm over IT.

I'm seeing status updates from people I don't care about instead of people I do care about now. And who has time to sit and hide all the slush?

For me, the party is over and it's time to move on.

Anonymous said...

Considering that the only viable means of promoting a book these days involves intensive social media work, for authors there isn't much choice but to go with the changes and move forward.

Mystery Robin said...

Honestly, I think the "walled gardens" will go the way of AOL. Every site seems to want you to update a status these days. And just like now you can email from anywhere, any service, I think soon you'll "update" your status from wherever you want, and get your updates from whom you want on your desktop or sidebar or something, and it won't be "Facebook" vs. "Twitter" or "Google+" but it will be all and more of those services aggregating the updates that appear on your computer independent of the source.

Roni Loren said...

This is a great analogy. I personally dislike facebook. It was fine when it was just for catching up with my family and friends. But when I needed to use it for my "author self", I found the whole Page thing cumbersome and non-user friendly. Twitter is much more useful for me.

I tend to be an early adopter, so I'm also on Google+ and Tumblr. Tumblr is lots of fun, but low on the interaction component. And Google + has a lot of positives, but until it's available on Tweetdeck, it's hard for me to keep up with it.

I think there will always be new parties popping up. And there will always be people who have panic attacks about change. It's human nature. But I don't think Facebook will die easily.

Hiroko said...

If Facebook and Twitter are going anywhere, it will probably be a long time before they uproot.
Even with new social media sites starting to gain followings, people will be content to use more than one most of the time. Of course, some will stay, some will go.

elephanta said...

This is so true. Party hopping. Mixing and mingling.

I don't feel like jumping ship on FB yet, and I really don't understand why people are so mad about the recent changes- I actually like them- but I think I am joining google+ soon, I was invited to that party by my Dad!

JohnO said...

MySpace might not be dead yet, but I think someone just tattooed "DNR" on its chest.

Robena Grant said...

I'm not too upset over FB and the changes. I'm on Google+ but it doesn't have the same appeal for me, and I can go days before realizing I haven't checked in. Twitter makes my face twitch. I have let that one slide.
I'm like the other commenters, I'd rather put my emphasis on the work than the party. Then if I feel I've put in enough hours...if I'm bored...then I can play.

John said...

As long as Facebook—or any social network—wants to be more than it really is, it's essentially doomed. Facebook wants to be the place I go to chat, shop, and explore the internet. I already have a way to explore the internet (it's called the internet); I don't need Facebook for that.

It is where my friends are; when they move, I move with them.

kelly said...

Watching the feed of the new facebook changes. Suddenly got the chill of Big Brother in the room.

Imagine, we can share everything about ourselves! Fun fun fun! Except ... people are crouching on the other side of the wall with an inverted glass against their ear. And I'm not a paranoid person. But the sheer amount of information, all in one place, shared with more than just your immediate trusted family, just seems unwise.

Haley Whitehall said...

I love Twitter because of the instant interaction. I devote most of my time there. I have a Facebook account but have not invested much time into it. I hate the new format. I have an account with Google+, but haven't developed it yet. I think I will leave Facebook in the dust and spent more time on Google. Unfortunately, Social Media is like a party -- it takes away from work time.

Maya said...

"And then your parents show up and the party is over."

Hilarious. And so true.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

And then your parents show up and the party is over.

I'm the mom, but when MY mom got on FB, I knew it had gone way, way, way mainstream (although I do have a cool mom).

And Google+ is great, but so far it feels like a writerly (because I'm a writer) water cooler. Like a work after-party, where everyone sips drinks and talks shop. Cool, but not where I'm going to post pictures of my kids doing crazy things with the cats.

Kat Sheridan said...

I've never been a fan of FB and am even less so now. My real friends exist in real life, and another group hangs out at (and they've become real life friends as well). I tried the new FB and got totally creeped out by what Kelly called the Big Brother factor. I mentioned something about Hot Lips Houlihan vs. Nurse Ratched. Immediately, it showed me a group for M*A*S*H in the sidebar and a note that an famous author likes that group. So I posted another status about how weird that was. Famous author (to whom I'm not even connected) responded that my comments showed up in HER feed because I mentioned her name. We were both squicked out about it.

No thanks. I've been on FB for ages but I doubt I'm going back. I mean honestly, have you ever bought from an unknown author because they friended you on FB then barraged your feed with self promotion thinly disguised as inane chatter?

Adam Heine said...

Well, Facebook users complain every time there's an interface change. Every. Single. Time.

I think you're right about the party analogy. At the moment, Google+ is exactly like Facebook but with less people. That seems to be its main draw, but as people and games and (one day) Farmvilles are added, that draw will go away and something new will appear.

Honestly, I hope Facebook is permanent, cuz the one point I disagree with you on is rebuilding my friends list. That's the last thing I want to do.

Julie Hedlund said...

I just wish we knew the reason facebook keeps changing its interface, privacy options, etc. It seems like they change for the sake of changing without regard to what we (the customers) want.

I doubt very many people will leave as a result because it really has become such a powerful social media tool, but it doesn't strike me as a great long-term business plan - do what you want, regardless of what your customers want, because you're "too big to fail."

Diana said...

The one thing that I don't like about facebook is that you have to log in to see what is going on. You can't lurk. You can't check to see if anything interesting is happening before logging in. You're limited in your interactions to those you friend or groups you belong to.

It's great for playing games, it's not so great for having a conversation and meeting new people. A message board or blogger is better for that.

Anne R. Allen said...

It's definitely like a party. I liked what Mark Coker said at the CC Writer's Conference this weekend (where you are still talked of with great fondness.) Mark said Facebook is like a family reunion and Twitter is like a cocktail party. He didn't mention Google +, but I think right now it's like sleek new restaurant that hasn't been discovered by the masses yet. I feel relaxed on Google+, but FB is more and more annoying. Like when your loud, obnoxious uncles show up at the family party. I'm sticking around, but not enjoying it much.

Mira said...

I like the analogy of social media sites being like parties. Rings true. People tend to go where other people go and party down.

I am more and more tempted to log onto facebook, even thought I don't want to!!! The smart thing facebook has done - or maybe it just happened organically - is connect business to a social networking site. That puts pressure on folks like me to join and entrenches it more deeply, I think.

Still. When it's time for the party to move on, it most likely will! Especially if the snacks are all eaten and the police are on their way. Time to pack up and head over to the party down the road.

I have no idea how the police/snack metaphor actually work in this context, but they were fun to write. :)

N.Scott said...

Hilarious Facebook/Party analogy! I'm not even on Facebook I got it.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

I think we're always looking for the next best thing, so when that next best thing becomes yesterday's old thing, we're out of there and moving on ( oops, hope that makes sense(!??)
Thank for post.

Deborah Serravalle said...

I liked your party analogy. It expresses the attitude I believe we need to take in the shifting landscape of social media.

I also agree that after you've invested time and effort, you're not likely to abandon FB, but rather start another party. I checked out Google+ and may get my own shindig goin' soon.

As always, thanks for your insight.

Ulysses said...

I think there's always going to be evolution in social networks.

More than ever, the tools we use to communicate are shaping the nature of our communication. As the nature of communication changes, so do the ways we connect to each other.

The telephone brought everyone closer because suddenly you didn't have to travel to Paris to speak to someone in Paris. E-mail made it possible to exchange notes with someone thee in minutes instead of weeks. Suddenly our web of friends wasn't constrained by geography or even occasional visual contact. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs like this, they've all made it easier to make and stay in contact, and they've also shaped the nature of that contact.

Our tools are changing the way we interact not just in form but in content as well. I think that as technology evolves, we'll want to do new things together, and we'll need new tools to facilitate that. I think it would be foolish to imagine that Facebook is the end point, that social connection isn't going to evolve beyond its capabilities.

kellye said...

Great conversation here. I'd always heard the analogy that Twitter was like hanging out in a pub....all these conversations going on at once, and you can overhear and join in if you want. But Facebook was supposed to be something different, with the whole "friending" thing. But now that seems pretty meaningless (even though I still have my account marked as "private." It's like the private FB party spilled out of the house...maybe it's too big to fail, but is it also too big to offer that "specialness" or (dare I say) intimacy that it once tried to offer?

I appreciate, especially those comments about Big Brother watching. The examples are creepy!

The Desert Rocks said...

It's like this: We're all having a great time at the FB party--yes, even with our parents and even with the crowds. Except that the rules keep changing and we can't wear shoes in the house, can't sit on the white sofa and we have to wash our own dishes etc. I think we'd stay forever if they didn't keep changing everything. It makes us uncomfortable and we are the guests.

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Rachel Ventura said...

Social media IS indeed like a party. And I'm too much of a wallflower to hit up the party. I guess you might say I'm not party-affiliated. :)

Most introverts, and I certainly am one, do not like parties. We find them draining. Social media is the same way. Ironically it seems ideal for introverts because, well, it's computer geeks that are behind it all. :)

But IMHO things like FB/Twitter/blogging are just the personality dramas of HS all over again. I had a very harsh experience in HS that could be called traumatic. Social media in fact scares me because it seems right back to the old anarchy of the HS corridors again. :(

Word verif: arturb. Just like in HS, an art student who becomes disturbed by the people picking on him/her, or the disturbed people who do such things. Or, on a more positive note, an idyllic creative community, i.e. an artists' suburb. :)

It could also be the handle of an artist who calls himself Artur B. Who knows, maybe the B stands for Banksy. :D

Rachel Ventura said...

Oh, btw: Not that I'm being a grammar Nazi or anything, but I just thought I'd point out...

Social media is LIKE a party: Simile
Social media IS a party: Metaphor

Remember a simile, unlike a metaphor, compares two things using the words Like or As. "Social Media is as diverse (fun, nerve-racking, evidential of the coming apocalypse) as a party" would be a simile too.

Just thought I'd point that out. :)

Word verif: bitip. What one should normally do when being nitpicky about grammar terms on the internet: BIte the TIP of one's tongue. Or, the Big Brother ID marker of who's commenting: your "bit"-level IP. :)

jillypumpkin said...

Wonder if Google+ is going to take over..... a month ago, I hated facebook...but now. hmmm..... my feelings toward FB have softened.

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