"Sorry, I’m Not on Facebook"

Observations February 21, 2011 1:12 am

‘Sorry, I’m Not on Facebook: The Reality Show’

Scene: A busy New York City street during the evening rush hour

Cast of Characters: JustAllie and her co-worker C; millions of busy New Yorkers rushing from here to there; an old friend

‘Sorry, I’m Not on Facebook’:

C and JustAllie, engrossed in conversation, are walking down a busy Manhattan street when C suddenly looks up and starts shouting ‘Hey! Hey Man!’ to one of the countless New York commuters passing by on the street.  C stops mid stride and turns to walk towards one of the passerbys as he  continues to enthusiastically shout ‘hello!’ to him.  {JustAllie stands awkwardly to the side, paused in confusion}.  The man slowly turns around, a look of annoyance and confusion clearly written across his face.  As he turns towards C, his unpleasant look turns to one of recognition and  pleasant surprise, and his face breaks into a wide grin as he recognizes C.

The random commuter C has decided to shout at is not in fact, a random stranger, but an old colleague and friend of C.  The two exchange pleasantries and catch up on each other’s lives since they last saw each other- was it the concert two years ago or that mutual friend’s wedding three years ago?  The chit chat continues for a few minutes until the old friend glances at his watch and exclaims that he is going to miss his train if he doesn’t get going.  He says he’s loved running into C and suggests they grab a beer sometime, and asks C for his information.  C checks his briefcase and wallet for a business card, as does the friend.  Neither can find one, so C says- don’t worry I’ll find you on Facebook.  The friend looks at him and says, Sorry, I’m not on Facebook- what’s your number?’

They shake hands and C and JustAllie continue walking one way while the friend heads the other way, both parties rejoining the countless other New York commuters eager to arrive at their evening destinations.  C and JustAllie pick up their conversation from pre-friend run-in, but JustAllie is distracted… she’s ruminating on the idea that C’s friend- who, by any outworldly observation, is a successful New York businessman with basic social skills (and not some guy living under a technology rock)…  still isn’t on Facebook.

End Scene: C and JustAllie go their separate ways, and we’re left with JustAllie standing at an intersection with a dumbfounded look on her face.  Cabs and pedestrians whiz by as if in super-sonic speed while JustAllie seems to be stuck in slow motion.  The camera comes in for a close up, and we see JustAllie mouthing the words, Sorry, I’m not on Facebook?’ while slowing shaking her head in disbelief and confusion.

To Be Continued…

Get MTV on the phone, stat! This reality show is sure to be an instant hit (and so much better than Skins).  The intrigue, the drama, the suspense! How can this man socialize without social networks? Will he ever join Facebook? Can C and JustAllie reconnect with other friends outside of using their social networks, or was this just one random occurrence?   If this man isn’t on Facebook, is he on Twitter?  How does he survive not knowing his Klout score, and even more shocking- how could C and JustAllie even deem to talk to him not knowing his Klout score?

<now go back and read that last paragraph again- but this time, make sure it’s with lots and lots of sarcasm>

It’s hard not to get caught up in theI love social media- and everybody’s doing it- bubble.’ The stats alone are staggering- in 2010, Facebook was the most visited website in 2010, (Hitwise) 1 out of every 8 minutes online were spent on Facebook, (Comscore) and  100 million new users signed up for Twitter (Twitter).  In 2010 in the US, 9 out of every 10 Internet users visited a social networking site each month, and time spent on social networking sites accounted for 14.4% of Americans’ (aged 15+) total online time. (Comscore)

While I think we’d be fools to say that social media sites don’t offer a valuable conversation platform (for both individuals and companies), I think it’s important every now and then to take a deep breath, step back ,and detach ourselves from the ‘I love social media bubble. <And I say this as a huge advocate of social networks>.

What about the 1 out of every 10 Internet users that don’t visit a social networking site each month?  Are they any less ‘social‘ because they don’t have 600 friends on Facebook, or any less ‘influential‘ because they don’t have a Klout score of 70+?  And what about that 85.6% of time that wasn’t spent on social networking sites– was this time any less ‘social‘?  Or what about the time that wasn’t spent online at all– was there any ‘social networking‘ happening then?

‘Social networking’ isn’t new, and the first social ‘network’ started long before the Internet was born.  But as the adoption of technology has changed how we live our lives (from play, to work, to education, to socializing…), the concept of ‘social networking’ has also evolved, making way for these online ‘social’ platforms to become a part of our ‘personal/business/political/advertising/etc. conversations.

We’ve seen how social networks can be a powerful tool in our personal/business/political/etc conversations- one example that immediately comes to mind: the recent Egyptian revolt.  Did the use of social networks start the uprising in Egypt? No.  Did social media play a role in mobilizing and  accelerating cohesive action? Yes, I believe so.

But the protesters in Egypt- were they sitting at home, on the computer, posting status updates or tweeting about the revolution? Were they worried about how many ‘fans’ they had on their ‘Down with Mubarak’ Facebook group page? Did they care how the revolution was affecting their Klout score on Twitter? Or were they out being social, and being part of a network: protesting in the streets?

Yes, online social networking platforms can be very powerful tools- but stepping outside of the ‘I love social media bubble’, we can’t forget that relationships exist offline, and it’s what happens both on and offline that create the entire social/political/business/advertising/etc conversation.  ‘Social media’ is just one piece of the pie, as is bumping into someone on the street– and every interaction that we have, both on and offline, defines the complete conversation.

While the stats behind social networking sites are staggering, and there is no denying that social media is and will continue to be a part of the <social/business/political/advertising/etc.> conversation, I think we need to remember two things about social media: 1) in the long run, the basic premise behind social media is to provide a platform for people to interact and connect with each other, and these connections should be enhancing the overall conversation, not distracting from it and 2) there’s a large portion of the population that mostly or only socialize outside of social media networks.

So take a deep breath and step away from the ‘social media’ bubble for a minute- are you really connecting with others online? Are your interactions/connections on social networks enhancing the overall conversation or detracting from it?  Does it really matter what your Klout score on Twitter is, or what your ‘friend count’ is on Facebook?  In the end, I think it all boils down to the act of being social- being part of the conversation— and you can be social and be a part of the conversation without participating in ‘social networks.’ And remembering that participating in social networks could actually hurt your conversations if you live only inside of the bubble– for example, if Egyptians had only tweeted about the government, nothing would have happened.  It was the action outside of the social media network that really mattered.  It’s a balancing act- online social networking platforms can only work in tandem with offline social networking platforms.  Don’t become so ‘social’ in the social media bubble that you forget the importance of being ‘social’ offline!

And don’t forget to look up from time to time while you’re walking down a busy street- you don’t want to miss the social networking opportunities!

(I was going to make an awful joke about social networking platforms and the subway platform being one of these social platforms, but I refrained so you’d revisit JustAllie :))