Sep 23, 2011
Facebook & Google Plus
Posted in: Miscellaneous
So I'm currently at NACAC in New Orleans. I'll post more about the awesome people I'm meeting (and delicious food I'm eating) next week.
But right now, I'd like to discuss something that's been on my mind for a few months, in the hope of generating some kind of useful conversation here in the blog comments.
The MIT Admissions site was one of the first higher ed sites to "go social", if by "going social" you mean things like respect, understand, and integrate the importance of social production and community involvement on our website via the blogs several years ago.
But over the past seven years some things have changed. Much of the community involvement that used to happen in the blog comments now takes place elsewhere, and especially on Facebook, across a variety of groups maintained not by our office, but by students. We of course have our Facebook page, where we share blog posts, answer questions, and have discussions. But the trend - not by our efforts, but by the natural ebb and flow of how people use the Internet - has been towards disaggregated conversations across multiple communities and spaces.
One of them has been Facebook. But Facebook has changed over the years. When I joined Facebook, in 2005, there were no groups, no photos, no news feed, just a profile photo and a comment box called the Wall. It was open only to college students, and you could only friend people at the college you attended. It was a very different places.
Over the years obviously many things have changed. Some of them - like friending people at other schools, photos, videos, etc - have been great. But quite a few of them have not, or at the very least have been contested and controversial.
Facebook just announced a new feature called Timeline. Timeline allows for your friends to basically scroll back through your Facebook forever to see developments that have occurred along the way, as dramatized in this promotional video:
This really bothers me. In the beginning, Facebook essentially served as a platform for establishing and maintaining weak ties. Not only was the technology not nearly as advanced as it is now, but the audience – remember, limited to just college students – was also very thin. Both the simple technology and the thin potential audience meant that it was pretty difficult to collapse contexts, because the limitations of the space and audience effectively (not identically) worked like the informational constraints of the real world.
As time has gone on, both of these things have changed. One thing which has changed is the fact that Facebook is now delivered to a much broader audience. And the other thing which has changed is that the technology now supports a much deeper interaction among members of that audience.
When you think about it this way, it’s a striking transformation. What began, by design and audience, as a social utility intended to facilitate the maintenance of weak ties has become, by design and audience, a social utility built around profound sharing with supposedly strong ties. It’s a complete overhaul of the entire social ecosystem, and a complete reversal of Facebook’s mission and role in people’s lives.
So that's one thing that I'd like to hear people's thoughts about.
The other is Google Plus. We haven't done anything with Google Plus yet as an office. I personally love Circles (but I'm biased, as Circles mirrors my own previous research into what Facebook could do to improve its privacy). But I haven't begun using it yet, and I don't yet have a sense of how students are using it, or finding it useful.
So this blog post is an open thread for your thoughts on the following question:
Assuming that our goal is to help spread our message and continue our conversations throughout spaces where students are, what should we be doing as an office in Facebook and/or Google Plus?
What is the best way for us to use Facebook pages? Groups? Does Google Plus help at all? Are you concerned about your use of Facebook or G+ going forward based on privacy concerns / real name issues / etc?
Two years out of college, I'm now beginning to feel "old" in that I realize my own experiences with social media are a generation out of date. So please, tell me how to understand what is happening.