Facebook – the holiday romance

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(Steve Sawyer – http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevesawyer/1443530999/)

One thing is certain for this year – it will be the year we fall out of love with Facebook. I know, I know, we only fell in love with it last year. As I’ve commented before, my Facebook use has dropped off considerably with the use of Twitter, and this week I’ve seen D’Arcy Norman announce his deFacebooking (as he put it in his status ‘The ugly, it burns’), and via my Twitter stream Scott Wilson performing a kind of Facebook striptease, or deconstruction, as he removed the various apps, left groups, deleted his profile pic, etc.

Yes, Facebook will definitely fade this year. But before the real backlash begins and we mock anyone who uses it, I want to reflect on its uptake. In the next post I’ll look at what it taught me, and in this one think about what this rapid adoption and then dumping means.

The first thing to say is that it isn’t really because of anything Facebook has done. I think you can find logical reasons why you’re divesting yourself of it – privacy, Beacon, spam/bacn, the very annoying feature of needing to install an app in order to see a message someone has sent you, etc. But really it’s just that it’s served its purpose and it’s not as much fun anymore.

Now, a lot of people will be very smug about this, saying ‘I told you so – I knew it wouldn’t last and so I didn’t bother.’ This is to totally miss the point. We knew it wouldn’t last either – Facebook was a holiday romance, not the great love of your life. And like holiday romances it was to be enjoyed while it lasted and approached with full gusto and enthusiasm – otherwise there is no point to it. One doesn’t engage in a holiday romance cautiously (obviously I don’t engage in them at all anymore, but we’re in metaphor mode here), that’s not their role. Their function is to be short-lived, intense, and perfectly encapsulated. And that’s how many of us approached Facebook.

I predict that rather like holiday romances, when you get back to the humdrum of everyday life you become rather embarrassed by the degree of passion you felt. Similarly, there will be an unspoken competition this year to prove that you never really liked Facebook much anyway.

I blogged before that I think we are monoamorous with regards to type of software, rather like football teams, so you only love one social network, one VLE, etc. But maybe what the Facebook episode reveals is that while we may be monogamous within these relationships to types of software, they are shortlived and we are always getting ready to move. The modern day educational technologist needs to think of themselves as something of a Henry VIII figure – always falling in love then cruelly discarding the object of affection for the next one. But with less beheading.

10 Comments

  1. I’ve only had one holiday romance -and I’m still married to him after 10 years, a mortgage & 2 lovely children (tongue in cheek).
    So will we experience the same ‘holiday romance’ with Twitter – or is it easier to build stronger and more long term relationships in this social networking site?

  2. Trina says:

    This is an interesting way of thinking about it. I’ve seen several similar migrations over the past few years in the online communities where I spend my time, so undoubtedly more migrations are to come.
    There are definitely some applications I’d love to behead, though….

  3. This is well-said, I think. One thing that remains to be sorted out across all social network sites is WHY people join. I think you can boil it down to two approaches:
    1) people join because the site might help them do something they need to do/address a need they have;
    2) people join because…well…everyone else joined, didn’t they?
    People THINK sites like Xing or LinkedIn will be in category 1). (Whether it ends up being true depends on their needs and savvy in using the sites). I think Facebook (like Friendster before it, Classmates.com, MySpace) is in category 2).
    I don’t Twitter, so I can’t say anything about how that relates to all this.
    Thanks.

  4. Martin says:

    Allison – yes, I guess some holiday romances do turn in to the real thing! I’m not sure about whether Twitter will go the same way – it has a more focused function so maybe not. However when lots of people sign up it may become unusable.
    Andrew – good comment – I hadn’t considered the initial motivation. I think your suggestions are right – I wonder if the initial motivation influences how you then use it and whether you stick with it.

  5. Well…three and half months later and no sign of fading from Facebook, despite regular screw ups. Martin, are we still falling out of love with the site?

  6. Thanking back a couple of years, I can come up with at least 10 couples which I have met that fell in love online. Not all met on Facebook, but two of them actually did and are even married by now. An Ecuadorian friend sent me a message (through Facebook) after hearing the song “Fallin’ in love on Facebook” saying in a nutshell that falling in love online is a common thing these days for teens and tweens. And why shouldn’t it be? Times change and so do means of communication.

  7. So Facebook is still going strong and we’re well into 2009…it will yet fade into something else, but the “falling out of love” prediction is yet to come true.

  8. martin says:

    Andrew – that wasn’t my point – yes it’s numbers will grow as it hits the normal distribution curve, but the ‘we’ here meant bloggers and edtech. We don’t really talk about FB much now – certainly not the way we talk about Twitter, so people have fallen out of love with it even if they still have an FB account which was the point I was making.

  9. Keith Harman says:

    There’s nothing too revolutionary here. The S curve of Innovation (as Roger discovered) tells that adoption comes in waves and we now understand about disruptive technologies.
    Having used ICQ, AOL IM and the IRC from MSN in the 90s it was interesting to see all the shifts occur.
    So what’s the next big thing? I think Google wave is a candidate or Twitter morphing into more than just a host of people usually speaking at each other. Real time, visual interface on a low scalability platform will make a big dent.

  10. I like checking back to this posting to see what has developed in the comments…just one or two posts a year, but still a really relevant topic! That’s a sign of a good blog post.

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