The Modern phonebook

By | 19/08/2007

Recently I have been trying to categorise websites and how they are used into single words. To this end I have recently started to view facebook as a self actualising phonebook. There are a number of factors which help to contribute to this feeling. One of these is the ability for me to add all “real life” friends without adding any “virtual friends” – friends I do not know in person. In so doing it limits the number of people in my contact list to those I have talked to in person at least once, but occasionally spanning two decades or more.

What is great about facebook is that those you have not seen in a decade are once more part of your daily life. I look at what people are posting and I know they’re in a number of countries. I can see which are their favourite films, whether they have recently travelled, whether relationships have crashed and burned or more. I can also see what they’re up to.

Twice in the last week I have noticed events put on by friends. One event was by friends whom are part of my University of Westminster days whilst others are from when i was a Bournemouth University student (albeit in Weymouh an hour away). When I went to the Westminster event I recognised quite a few faces since they are part of my recent history. It allowed me to meet new people and one comment was interesting. The girl who organised the event commented that most of these people did not know any others. She was the degree of seperation between all of us. As the night progressed so the links would strengthen and people who had been strangers just a few hours before would become familiar once again.

The next day saw me going to another facebook event but this time with people I had not seen for half a decade. By taking a look at the newsfeed in facebook I could catch up with these people. I saw that one friend was having their birthday that night and that another friend from the same time period was also going to be there. Looking through the photo stream I could see what the latest adventure had been. If people think that it’s important to mention something then it’s easy for you to notice and aknowledge this once you meet them next time.

When  you think of a phonebook you usually associate a limted amount of details like phone number, address, business and address. Facebook gives these details but it also gives us so much more. It’s a great tool for those of us who are mobile and willing to travel.

There are three contributing factors which help make facebook popular; the first of these is mobility, the second is international travel and the last is broadband.  The first two factors are related. I am thinking about the distance and time it takes to get from where you live to where the friend lives. If you’re in North London and your friend is in North London then it’s easier to keep in touch via the facebook newsfeed than to commute over an hour to see that individual. At the same time as more of us have international groups of friends so the cost of phone calls and ability to see how friends regularly declines. We need technology that allows us to keep up to date with friends and that’s why we need the enhanced phonebook. Broadband is the enabling technology.

There is a lot of information. Imagine taking two hundred pictures of an event where twenty of your friends are. If you have to mail each of these to each friend then this is going to take a lot of time and effort. Facebook allows you to do this without hinking about it, hence keeping friends you may not see frequently current to the life you are currently leading.  In effect the more open your network of friends are the easier it is to remain up to date with current developments.  At this moment in time Facebook is one of the best adapted to these needs

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