SNS = Social Network Sites (not Super Nintendo System) Boyd and Ellison
Posted by b0bryan
I’m guessing that most Americans understanding of the history of Social Network Sites (SNS) comes from the movie The Social Network, myself included. Based on that, I assumed that there was MySpace and Friendster and then Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook smote them. Danah Boyd and Nicole Ellison, however, clear that all up in their article Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. I think the thing that surprised me the most about the history part of this article is how quickly the members of the various social networks abandoned them when they got annoyed.
When Friendster got more popular, the network performance suffered and then as more and more people joined it became less cool, “. . . exponential growth meant a collapse in social contexts: Users had to face their bosses and former classmates alongside their close friends.” If FB messes up bigtime could they fold up too? I can’t remember where I read this, but I have heard that many young people are abandoning FB (or are at least downplaying it) in favor of Twitter since their Mom and Dad haven’t joined Twitter yet and they can still say what they want.
Now Facebook has been pretty stable in terms of performance, but it definitely seems to be declining in the coolness area. Maybe it is just me, but the more people I add to my “Friends” the less I post to FB. Yes, there are privacy settings, but figuring them out is like doing one of those logic puzzles. You know, “Jane likes bananas and grapes, but only on Sundays. Bill hates grapes and likes bananas, but will only eat them in the morning. What kind of fruit can Jane and Bill eat on Tuesday afternoon.” Is there anyone out there that hasn’t been burned by a status update that somehow made it to someone that it shouldn’t have?
And now our employers are busy implementing their own internal SNSs, “This growth has prompted many corporations to invest time and money in creating, purchasing, promoting, and advertising SNSs.” It’s one thing to post something that annoys your Sister-in-Law, it is something else entirely to offend the Director of Marketing (or some other muckety-muck). I have no evidence of this, but I suspect that this is a significant reason why most corporate social networks are lame: no one wants to offend anyone so no one challenges anything–no matter how stupid.
In our private life we can choose our friends and we stand a chance in understanding our audience, “In listing user motivations for Friending, boyd (2006a) points out that “Friends” on SNSs are not the same as “friends” in the everyday sense; instead, Friends provide context by offering users an imagined audience to guide behavioral norms.” But corporate SNSs are guided by org charts and not personal relationships. Without having this guide, how can companies leverage the power of social networking for collaboration and sharing without triggering all the bad aspects–misunderstanding and mistrust? And add cultural differences to the list and it starts to look a little hopeless.
But Boyd and Ellison do offer a little hope, I think, when they say, “Although exceptions exist, the available research suggests that most SNSs primarily support pre-existing social relations. Ellison, Steinfield, and Lampe (2007) suggest that Facebook is used to maintain existing offline relationships or solidify offline connections, as opposed to meeting new people.” Maybe rather that dictating to people who their “friends” should be inside a company, they should allow people to share comments with colleagues of their choosing. It seems counterintuitive, but maybe we need less connections to get more sharing.
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