Why Facebook, Why Now?

July 14, 2007 § 10 Comments

John Betelle set off the quintessential question, for the month, which is a question – at least the way he frames it – that usually refers to some point in our fragile lives that has come to an uncertain and perhaps perilous juncture. Or to an equally destabilizing awakening, that perhaps many converts feel right before they are inclined to join the ranks of society’s strange group, the Muslims. Yes that awakening, the realization of how fragile our human lives really are, and the knowledge that something must be done. But no Bettelle doesn’t waste time, meandering about, asking the centuries old question of the centuries old issue. Bettelle skips all that and gets right to the good stuff. The Internet. And asks,

“Why Facebook, why now,”

Actually, its a good question. And I have been asking myself the very same question. Why Facebook? I have recently become a member and brought along a host of Muslims with me (my Gmail account has hundreds of Muslims and Muslim bloggers that I have acquired over the years). So what I have realized is that, Facebook, unlike some of the other sites that attempt social networking, is really good at “social networking”. In fact it does, better than any other, in what the term denotes. Whereas the others only imply, “social networking” but do not make it as easy nor as fun.

Conversely, Facebook’s critics, like Scott Rosenberg, co-founder of Salon.com and Robert Scoble, the Scobleizer, suggest that Facebook needs work on its terms; definitions and advertising respectively.

Rosenberg says,

“The first generation of social networks were mocked for offering only a simple binary choice of “friend” or “not friend.” Facebook — which started as a network for college students, but opened its doors to the world a few months ago, and is now growing like mad — isn’t much of an improvement.”

Although he has a point, I was rather happy to see that many of the more ambiguous choices, like “Met randomly” for example, allowed you to fill in the blanks.

Scoble, on the other hand, jumped on the advertising issue that TechMeme [1] pointed out. He shoots-down the entire advertising scheme of the site by what seems to be play-by-play example of its short comings. He then summarizes that, “Facebook needs an advertising platform and it needs one in the worst way. I’m not going to even look at the ads until the ads are tied to the people on Facebook. Facebook knows what we’re into, put ads for those things onto our profiles and messages.”

The way I see it is that, the definitions and terms may provide too many options but the fill in the blanks are good. I don’t use all of the friends definitions either “Sco” but I think if they cut them down, which I doubt they will, at least leave the fill in portion or perhaps add more “optional” fill in features for those users who either have time to spend or are manic.

I for one like a little bit of limitation. For example, this morning I woke up called my wife and children – they are at Grandma’s for the weekend – then went to Facebook and changed the “Hakim Abdullah is” from “Hakim Abdullah is home alone” to “Hakim Abdullah is going for coffee”. Now I was quite happy just saying that I was home alone, nothing less nothing more. Perhaps a family member or friend would see this on Facebook and be inspired to ask, “Hey where are the kids?”.

Likewise, I was equally satisfied with saying that I was going for coffee. I was being discrete. Because I do not want everyone to know that I was actually going in to my kitchen to roast fresh beans that I bought from Yemen. Then ground them by hand adding a pinch of nutmeg, cumin, black pepper and three cardamom pods. And finally pouring the powder into the kedhli (an old world coffee maker) and bring it to a slow 20 minute boil. If I would have said all that, no one would ever invite me to their house for coffee again… doh (a Homerism)!

But overall, I have found the initial stage of Facebook to be enjoyable. I spend a lot of time on the internet. Which I am going to have to manage more strictly in the next month or so, Ramadan is coming. The groups seem pretty cool and the best part of the entire Facebook experience is that it focuses largely on people, not business, not sex and dating, but just getting to know people. Because remember, in the Qur’an it says,

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (49:013)

And I think its about time we get started working toward being the best in this context. Don’t you?

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