I Think Fragmented Communities in Social Networks Are a Good Thing

September 19, 2008

by — Posted in Technology

Picture from here

I was listening to the last weeks episode of Net@Night and they were complaining that the Twitter community has become fragmented.  This is true in the online world, as well as the offline world.  We are all not friends.  Sometimes I think what you read, listen to, watch, or have to say is utterly idiotic and reprehensible.   I’m sorry.   I do.   I also know that some of you think the same things about me, especially those that are completely fed up with me.

We call places like Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc.  social networks.  They are and they are not.  If you consider High School an experiment in social networking I guess they are social networks.   I prefer to think of them as “Social Platforms”.   These are sites and applications that allow you to be social, but you don’t have to be.   I enjoy going to a movie with someone else and don’t really enjoy going by myself.   That doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there that don’t enjoy going by themselves.   Some people join social networks for the games, some for the functions, and yes most for the social aspect and the ability to connect with people.

I’ve written before that I use different social platforms in different ways.  Some communities, like twitter, I take an active role and participate in, others I hang back and show up when I receive a comment on some piece of work I’ve commented on.   I just don’t have time to be a good community member and interact exclusively (or a lot) on the literally hundreds of social network sites I belong to.  Giving the lack of time in being able to deal with all of them, I write once and post everywhere.  I deal with comments and such.

I won’t add you to my friends list if I haven’t dealt with you in some sort of capacity.  I add you if I’ve met you through online gaming, real life meetings, or I’ve had some sort of conversation with you.   I won’t add you if you thought I look interesting and just want to chat (don’t worry I’m not requesting friendship form you if you look interesting either).   Heck I don’t even like some of the networks I’m a member of.  What does this mean though?

Does it mean I’m not networking socially?   I am and I’m not.   I’m hanging out with friends or exchanging ideas with people I know.   If your coming along for the ride, more power to you.  I’m not going to these just to meet you, some unknown person to me.   Until I know you I don’t want to network with you.

What does this mean in general?  I’ve pigeon holed myself into these social platforms.  I’ve become cliquish in a way that also existed in high school.   Just because I haven’t welcomed you with open arms doesn’t mean I refuse to get to know you, it just takes time.   This is what happens to the splintered groups amongst all of these social platforms.  They have their own secret hand shakes and communities that exist on the platform.   This is actually quite a good thing, this is how you fulfill the niche market.   One size doesn’t fit all.  I do believe your data and the data explicitly shared with you should be able to be moved to another platform, data should be open and you should be able to make your own decisions over the data and meta data you create.     Splintered communities online just show us the social model that we have in the real world can replicate and exist online.

Because online communities begin to form and evolve organically the same way they do in meat space, we know that they are real true communities.   They aren’t Utopian society love-ins.  Just because your friends with Bob and Jane and I’m friends with them doesn’t mean we have anything in common to talk about.  Personally I have issues with Bob and Jane on some things, what if those are the things that you have in commonality with them?  I would then hate you.   I don’t want to hate, but I don’t want to get to know you either.     That’s not a bad thing.  Like real life we need to get to know each other first.   You don’t give everyone on the street you meet your phone number – why would you add them to your friends list.

It’s not necessarily about hiding information from them.  There are a lot of people like myself who literally broadcast their information broadly and openly across the internet.   You really aren’t gaining too much beyond more access to direct communication to me by being on my friends list.   I think these leads us to rethink the idea of friend lists.

Now go friend me on every possible social network you find that has a Creeva.

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