Rupert Murdoch is a bit sad about Facebook. And it’s all this guy’s fault.

http://stephenconnolly.files.wordpress.com/2007/06/070528_facebook_hmed_10ahmedium.jpg

You see, two years ago, Rupert
plunked down US$580 million for a cool little website called Myspace.
Admittedly, it’s now worth many times what he paid for it but alas, in
cool terms, it no longer is. Rupert understands this. Hence the
sadness.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal back in June (before he
bought that too), the journalist suggested that traditional media
consumers were now moving to Myspace. “I wish they were” Rupert replied
gloomily. “They’re all going to Facebook at the moment.”

He’s right. We are. Myspace is, like, sooooo five clicks ago. Facebook
was founded by Harvard graduate Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 as a social
networking site for college students. That’s him in the picture above. And doesn’t he look happy! The name refers to the ‘paper
facebook” given to new students to familiarise them with other people
on campus. Now anyone can join Facebook and 39 million people worldwide
have. 60% of them log in every day and hang out for an average of 19
minutes a day.

And while everyone from Microsoft to Yahoo to Google to Rupert himself
is rumoured to be trying to buy a piece of the action, 24 year old
Zuckerberg is not selling a sausage and he’s already turned down offers
of US$975 million. Internally, it’s apparently valued at US$10 billion.
Now you know why he looks happy.

The key difference between Myspace and Facebook is this: Facebook is
for grown-ups. On Myspace, I always felt like I’d walked into a
nightclub full of wasted19 year olds dancing to doof doof music at 2am.
Not. My. People.
While Myspace is visually loud, cluttered and ugly, Facebook is clean
and simple. Like Myspace, it’s free and generates its revenue from
banner ads. You create a personal profile, post photos, find old and
current friends, poke them, exchange messages and generally waste time.
But happy time.

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Lately, I’ve been wasting lots of happy time on Facebook and this is not happy news for my friends. One of my most irritating qualities is that when I fall in love with something I become violently evangelical. Lord help my loved ones if I ever become a Scientologist. So at the moment, I’m having a lot of conversations with my husband / mother / baby-sitter / girlfriends / brother-in-law / barista, that go like this:

Them (rolling eyes): “But why do I need to be on Facebook? I already have email.”
Me (passionately): But Facebook is about socialising! Fun! Email is all about work these days! Facebook is like your social inbox!”
Them (wincing): Look, why on earth would I want people knowing things about me? I’m private.”
Me (excitedly): But you decide what info goes on your profile! And you can customise your privacy settings!”
Them (stroppy now):  “I don’t have enough time for my real friends. Why do I need internet friends?”
Me (with gusto): “But it’s the same friends you currently call and email! Just a different, more fun way to connect with them!”

At this point they usually start glancing around for a sharp implement to pierce their own eardrums. Which is a shame really, because then I don’t get the chance to espouse the merits of ‘status updates’ and ‘pokes’.

Status updates are a key feature of Facebook. They allow you to let your friends know what you’re doing. How you’re feeling. Your changing mental, physical, geographical or emotional state. On your homepage, as often as you like, you complete the sentence ”Your Name) is…” You can write something mundane (“Damian is…tired”), informative (“Emma is…in Paris”), witty (“Lisa is…trying to choose between Nurafen and Nurafen Plus”), significant (“Louise is….pregnant and it’s a girl!”), cryptic (“Joe is…not happy about the situation”) or nothing at all.

Status updates appeal to the show-off lurking in many of us (OK, me). And as one Facebook friend explains: “just the act of making commentary about yourself in a public place somehow makes you feel less alone and somehow connected to the world around you.”

Reading your friends’ status updates is addictively voyeuristic.  The modern equivalent of peering over the back fence to see what the neighbours are doing. Or watching a personalised reality show starring your friends. How you actually define “friends” on Facebook is up to you. My definition is fairly liberal. To be my friend I have to know you; now or in the past. Not necessarily in the biblical sense but hey, a number of those have found me and I’ve clicked “confirm” (instead of “ignore”) on their friend requests.
Whether you actually communication with your ‘friends’ is up to you but my single friends tell me Facebook is the best thing that’s happened to flirting since alcohol. “You meet someone at a bar or a party and instead of doing the awkward public number swap, you bring the conversation around to Facebook and message them or poke them later.”

Ah, poking. Just when you thought communication couldn’t get more superficial than texting, along comes the Facebook ‘poke’. You can ‘poke’ anyone on Facebook. It’s like waving. A way to attract attention. No words required.

Despite my preaching, not everyone is convinced. “I loved it violently at first,” sighs a 26-year-old girlfriend who used to update her status five times a day. “But once I’d reconnected with the people from high school I was interested in and caught up on their news, I found the whole thing redundant. It was like I’d been to the school reunion, had my fill and was ready to leave the party. Maybe I’ll log back on in 10 years and see what’s changed in their lives.”
And this from another friend in her thirties. “I’ve heard that once you get a page, you can’t remove it. It’s permanent. Like herpes. It sounds like my idea of hell and I actually referred to it as My Face the other day. My 22 year old assistant fell off her chair laughing”. Fortunately, I’m having dinner with this friend next week. I reckon I can talk her around. I’ll just have to remove sharp things from the table first.

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