It’s doubtful that “Buzz”, Google’s newly announced social component of Gmail, will pose any significant threat to Facebook’s dominance. I was nonetheless gleeful at the prospect of a having a viable alternative to the world’s largest “social network”.
My excitement about Buzz correlates precisely to my increasing disillusionment with Facebook. What once seemed like a dynamic social forum is actually just a stream of disconnected, shallow, narcissistic chunks of bullshit from people I sorta know. There is no dialogue on Facebook, only monologue. Like most Facebook users, I only interact with a small percentage of my “friends”, while the majority are more like an audience than a group of people with whom I wish to converse (or who wish to converse with me).
Buzz, by contrast, should consist of people I do wish to engage in conversation, since the friend list is based on my email communications. It supports existing services (such as Picasa and Twitter) without any need for clunky applications and APIs. And best of all, I won’t have to sift through dozens of game results, horoscopes, and notices about people joining cleverly named groups. Incidentally, the people who join these groups will never actually participate in them. They simply join as another means of expressing their individuality.
Facebook offers the promise of socialization, but it is really just a platform for self-expression. It’s like blogging on training wheels. We get to “publish” our thoughts to a safe audience, free from fear of exposure to the entire internet. Unfortunately that safety is derived from the fact that most of your “friends” don’t care about your musings and won’t even read them, much less comment on them. So Facebook fails both as a social network and as a mechanism for public expression.
Now, mockery would not be be an unreasonable response to my complaints about Facebook. Indeed, accusations of hypocrisy would be quite justified. If I’m so dissatisfied with this “social network” then why don’t I just delete my account? Why do I persist with logging in each day, sharing links and photos, and commenting on people’s posts?
I guess the answer is that, like many people, I enjoy socializing online. Sadly, Facebook leaves me feeling hollow. It fails to deliver on the promise of a true social network.
I simply refuse to accept that Facebook is the future of the web. A buggy, walled-in platform can’t be the answer to sharing and socializing on the web. If I want conversation, I’ll use email, chat, Twitter, or hopefully Buzz. If I seek an audience, I’ve got my website and blog.
People may not leave Facebook in droves and flock to Buzz, but if Google’s new foray into social networking lives up to its promise, I certainly will.