I’ve used MySpace for a while to some degree and have now joined up with Facebook – both different takes on social networking. Ultimately, they both have flaws. MySpace has a flat, vague notion of relationships within the system, allowing bands and business to be ‘friends’ as your family members or people you only know through MySpace; Facebook goes some way in the opposite direction: While the model more accurately attempts to mirror our actual relationships, it provides a fairly strict means of defining what these relationships are and, then like MySpace only allows to state that in some way, we are connected to an individual.
There’s no sense in either of these that you could be closer to some friends than others; maybe some friends you know from school and stay in touch with from time to time or maybe you have a friend you’ve only met over the web you’re in contact with daily. There’s no means of either suggesting this yourself or the system working pro-actively. This becomes and issue if you actually use the system regularly and actually amass a substantial network of your own.
Another interesting view of the Facebook model is that, there is a fairly rigid definition of what a ‘network’ is within the confines of the system. I’m in Liverpool and yet the closest geographical network I could affiliate with is Manchester. Is this because it is US-centric or because this is just a pre-defined base for Northern England? Networks are flexible, more ad-hoc than strictly prescribed, so why does no socnet model really address this inherent flexibility? While MySpace allows you to have 10,000 ‘friends’, on Facebook, you might actually only have your ‘real’ friends – around 45… While Facebook allows people to link – focussing on the personal aspect of social networking, MySpace’s structure and process allows anyone or any entity to set themselves up as a user and network.
What is right for social networking in the future? Do we want to be able to accurately reflect the real world to any degree when managing our social interactions on the web or is having a pre-defined model within each close-walled system the way it will always be?