Commentary

When Worlds Collide -- Or, Should Facebook Evolve Its Social Graph?

I guess that MG Siegler's column yesterday on TechCrunch, asking whether Facebook should adopt a friend and a follower system, resonated with me because I've been thinking about the nature of my social networking relationships lately as well. I finally got around to decoupling my tweets from my status updates earlier this month -- 15 seconds that I should have found in my schedule at least a year ago.

The problem was that I was concerned my worlds were intermingling too much -- more than I, or those in my Twitter and Facebook circles, wanted them to. I do a fair amount of outreach on Twitter for the various projects that constitute my living. My friends on Facebook, though originally made up largely of professional friends -- because soccer Moms and college friends hadn't yet discovered it -- had turned more into a place where they ruled the day. And, though no offense is meant to my "professional" Facebook friends, having discussions about why the kids have yet another half day off from school seems much more in context on Facebook to me than ones debating the virtues of the iPhone 4.

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So, as Twitter and Facebook began to evolve, I began to grow uncomfortable with the spillover between the two. Did the professional crowd get tired of my 140-character laments about my almost daily trips to CVS? Did friends and family wonder why I would express any interest in recruiting them for a panel at the Social Media Insider Summit (plug!) or share a story about market share of the Android platform? Fortunately, everyone was too polite to write obnoxious stuff about my confused life on my wall, but still ... it was high time that I tried to bring method to my social networking madness.

But let's get back to Siegler's central question: do quandaries like mine mean Facebook should adopt a friend and a follower system? That's a tough one.

You could say that social networking -- even just Facebook itself -- already has such a thing. Twitter can be for Twitter-type relationships, while Facebook can be for friends. You can also separate your Facebook friends into groups, but I don't think that really solves the problem that Siegler sees.

His theory is that, with 500 million users, for many people Facebook is the be-all and end-all for social networking, and thus, particularly as it adds new features like Facebook Places, it has to adjust its social graph accordingly. Do we really want to share our whereabouts with our 400 Facebook friends? He says:

" [I]n their drive to be the center of the social web and promote sharing (of links, of data, of information, of everything), Facebook is mutating. The problem is that the original social graph isn't built for this mutation. And we're going to see that very clearly with things like this new location element.

"Facebook wants us to share things more openly, but with Places, they have launched a feature that most people will want to keep close to the vest. They can't have it both ways, right?"

So, what do you think? Should Facebook introduce a friends-and-followers system, or is this whole idea just a bit of late August mental meandering? A problem that already has good solutions?

5 comments about "When Worlds Collide -- Or, Should Facebook Evolve Its Social Graph?".
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  1. Ambrose L. from -, August 25, 2010 at 5:35 p.m.

    Facebook already has a followers system. It’s called Facebook Pages.

  2. Amanda O'Neal, August 25, 2010 at 5:58 p.m.

    I couldn't agree more with the need for a "professional" and "personal" separation on FB. I ended up using my FB profile for personal relationships and my page for sharing professional thoughts. Although, I will say that the interaction on the page isn't nearly as good as it would be if I had a professional profile. And, occassionally I find myself exploiting my personal profile to get quick feedback on a professional idea. When they separate the two - I"m in!

    As for Twitter...I've given up on it personally. It's strictly professional.

  3. Shawn Burns from SB Properties, August 25, 2010 at 5:59 p.m.

    Interesting issue so I've begun to use a cool social media tool that allows me to see my social graph to others, but does not show a lot of info on me. The tool is at www.megree.com

    They are doing an interesting job of organizing vast amounts of social graph data.

  4. Amanda O'Neal, August 25, 2010 at 6 p.m.

    Oh, and one more thing. Pages doesn't have the same functionality as a profile, so doesn't achieve the same ease of posting material or interacting.

  5. Alex Luken from Humana, August 25, 2010 at 6:46 p.m.

    Managing your social graphing on social networks is very much like managing the holiday card list back in the day when people actually had the money to send cards, and the time to enjoy sending them out. My multiple address books were coded with communications tags to identify who got what: individuals who received a religious card, holiday newsletter, and picture of the family in ridiculous holiday sweaters; individuals who received a secular card, personal note, no photos; individuals who received an alternative faith-appropriate card; business associates whose card was signed just by me; cards to teachers that included a thank you note and a check or gift card.

    Managing social media networks FB requires the same due diligence as the arcane paper address book and carefully crafted card list in years past, but with the added complication of filtering out not only the messages you send, but what you elect to receive. I don't really care to find out through Foursquare or Places that Charlotte is headed to The Bristol for lunch - unless I need to meet up with her. Likewise, tweets about traffic jams in Manhattan have little relevance to me here in the Upper South.

    Follow/following is not going to cut it. Simplification of tagging both the messaging messaging going out and coming in, from multiple platforms, needs greater simplification to be turned off and turned on, especially as the integration of platforms becomes more complex.

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