Buzzing Into the Future

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.

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Buzzing Into the Future

3 thoughts on “Buzzing Into the Future

  1. Uncommonly well written, Matt. Your post illustrates what I feel is part of the problem. Few people can actually communicate their thoughts in an effective manner. In Mike Judge’s Idicoracy the narrator, describing the future, says “the English language had deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valley girl, inner-city slang and various grunts.” Some days I feel like we’re already there.

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  2. Voidious says:

    > “the English language had deteriorated into a hybrid of
    > hillbilly, valley girl, inner-city slang and various grunts.”

    “heh! I know riiiiight????”

    I’m not sure what to think of Buzz just yet, but I’ll give it a chance. If it can smoothly integrate activity from Reader, Twitter, and Flickr/Picasa, it could have a part in my daily internetting. But since I’ll undoubtedly be checking Twitter and Reader separately from Buzz, anyway, it remains to be seen what extra value Buzz will offer me…

    I’m reminded of a tweet that never quite made it out of my head, something like: “Twitter happens on my terms; Facebook happens on theirs.”

    Twitter is just laser focused on the ability to follow the information/people I want to follow and interact with them however I choose. My usage has evolved a lot over time, but it’s always adapted naturally and easily. It’s simple and obvious how to craft your Twitter experience. Hopefully, Buzz will be like this, too.

    Facebook seems to want to learn my social graph on its own and then decide what information I should be consuming from all of these people. It’s like I’d need to trick it into giving me the experience I want. For me, Facebook is just a tedious and shitty experience compared to Twitter (or Reader).

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  3. Thanks for the comments guys, outstanding points all around (and Aaron I appreciate the compliment. πŸ™‚ It’s true, most of the problems with Facebook that I mention can be attributed to an inability, or unwillingness, to really communicate. Unable (or too lazy) to convey an original thought, people resort to these “proxies”–joining groups, etc. I’m going to have to check out this “Idiocracy”. πŸ™‚

    Patchdude that is a really great observation about Facebook doing things on “their own terms” while Twitter gives you the flexibility to control your interactions. Never thought about it that way, but it’s exactly correct. Everything about Facebook’s platform involves steering you toward behavior that benefits them–pushing you to “engage” with friends, advertising pages and groups, etc. Plus, and it’s difficult to explain why, but you never really feel like you “own” the content like you do with Twitter.

    Well, I got Buzz today and I am loving it so far. It seems to offer everything Facebook offers (well, all the GOOD stuff anyway πŸ˜‰ but is much leaner and quicker. I look forward to playing with it some more.

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