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      Network affects can, unfortunately, be quite powerful. For many people, being off Facebook can be a challenge to their social life. I say this as someone who actively avoids Facebook.

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        Yeah, that’s why I use it. And unfortunately for me, there are at least three fairly large networks of people I’d have to convince to shift off of it in order for it to become superfluous to me:

        1. Professional colleagues. Tons of discussion that once happened on mailing lists now happens in a somewhat more scattered way on Facebook, in either Facebook groups or on the walls of particularly well-connected people. Some of this also happens on Twitter, but more happens on Facebook, in part because Twitter discussions are more confusing (no threading, short messages, no groups, etc.). I think this is especially the case in my line of work (academia) because Facebook originated as a university social network.

        2. Local events. Basically everything around here is advertised on Facebook. Some but not all things also have websites. Sometimes RSVP’ing is accepted only via Facebook.

        3. Family. Just about all of my family, in multiple countries, are on Facebook, so I can use it to both passively keep up to date with what they’re doing, and update them with what I’m doing. It would be hard to move this elsewhere. Even if you compromise on the “passive” aspect, there’s no other way to even actively send them photos and things like that, besides snail-mail; I have a number of relatives (especially in Greece) who use Facebook but not email.

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          Same ones for me. Especially family. They’ll post important events there with me being only one not seeing it. They dont want lectures about privach when it happens.

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            1. “Facebook originated as a university social network” makes it sound like it was something official, which (as you probably know) it wasn’t.

            2. Google Photos is a pretty good alternative now.

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              Yeah, badly phrased on #1, I should’ve said “a social network for universities”. It’s really widespread among academics of a certain age group because of that, though. Around 2004–06, basically “everyone”, students and staff, got on Facebook, and most have remained.

              How do you use Google Photos for that? I use an Android smartphone and my photos are synced to Google Photos by default, but how do I send them to relatives? Many don’t use email, so I can’t send a link to an album.

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                You can share via SMS too if that works.

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                  SMS is rarely used among my social group. I don’t even have many of their phone numbers. Also, I’m not sure switching from one giant corporation to another is really a solution. Google Photos is surely not a social network (yet) but giving Google more business doesn’t necessarily make anything better for anyone.

                  Semi anti capitalistic rant here but in my more cynical moments I think we’re living in the internet equivalent of robber baron days. We have huge corporations that are extracting value from us, buying any would-be competitor to shut them down or make them part of the corporation. If competitiveness is an important aspect of capitalism, I think huge corporations are an indicator that the system is not properly competitive. But I’m also not sure how the world can support multiple Facebooks, if the primary value is network effects. I think it’d be nice if the government passed regulation that required social networks to be like rail way: standardize the transit protocol so that social networks can federate. That way I can be on whatever social network I want and my family can be on whatever one is extracting value from them and we can still communicate. It doesn’t matter what internet provider or telecom provider I have, I can talk to anyone on any of them. I have no idea how you could do the same with search, though. But I haven’t really thought it all through that much.

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        When you define community as “people who get along because they agree and are basically the same” instead of “people who work together in spite of their differences” you are going to have an exceptionally difficult time making sense of real-world politics. Unfortunately many of us are used to online communities where we are safely enveloped by similar opinions. Even before Facebook.

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          That’s usually true. You can counter it a bit on a personal level by picking a diverse set of friends representing a lot of different segments of America. Throw in different kinds of intellectuals with that. You get a more realistic perspective on Facebook, esp when significant events happen.

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          Amusing how every social media site falls over itself to use the word “community” while disavowing the need to keep people from sending death threats.

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            Can you explain further? I personally don’t think it’s facebook’s job to act as parental figures towards their user base. I also notice that “death threats” is often used as a stand-in for “insults” or “trolling”, so I’m naturally a bit skeptical about complaints like this.

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              The issue of parental figures is not related to the point I’m trying to make.

              What I’m saying is these sites love to talk about their userbase as a “community,” but I find that ridiculous. Is everyone on Twitter part of the Twitter community? No, that’s silly. If we subdivide further, is everyone talking tech on Twitter part of the Twitter tech community? I still find that ridiculous for a few reasons. First, it’s much too large. Second, there is little in the way of shared norms/values. These companies abuse this word because they know we want to be known and valued somewhere. The mechanics of these sites do not make that easy, however. Most social media sites are loud and noisy, and not given to nuance.

              I find social media a decent place to find some like-minded individuals, but actually cultivating those relationships requires more substantial effort than likes/retweets. But what are said networks built on? Short, pithy messages, and cheap signals of affection.

              It might seem like I’m getting pissy about the semantics of community (and I am), but I don’t find social media really enables deep relationships, just a bunch of shallow ones. “But it was never meant to foster deep relationships!” you might argue. Okay, then don’t call it a community!