Facing Up to Facebook

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not Flickr or Photobucket or Snapfish, but Facebook itself. So there’s something else going on. And it’s probably not so hard to understand.

Your photos on Facebook attract attention and inspire your friends to comment because they come with a built-in context: you. They show up in the same feed with your status updates, your tweets, your links, your comments on other people’s stuff, your Mafia Wars hits. In other words, your photos are only a part of you’re sharing about your life. The images gain value, rather than losing it, by being part of the big social-media mix. Photos on Flickr, by contrast, inhabit a social vacuum. There’s very little context on a Flickr page; a picture posted there might as well have been taken by anyone.

So the genius of Facebook, I’m belatedly realizing, is in the racket—the same confusion of seemingly disconnected chatter that used to be exactly what bothered me about the site. If you’re browsing your Facebook news feed and you see a photo your friend posted right alongside another friend’s music recommendation and yet another friend’s account of last night’s office party, you’re probably in “networking mode” already. That mean’s you’re much more likely to stop and comment on the photo than if you’re dutifully clicking through someone’s vacation photos on Flickr. Also, to give credit where it’s due, Facebook makes it very easy to leave comments, and to comment on comments, and to let everyone know you commented, and around and around.

Foundry Works BuildingFacebook has a few other new things in its favor, too. After the most recent redesign, which got rid of much of site’s old clutter, it seems much more functional and attractive. I like the way the Wall makes updates front-and-center, Twitter style, highlighting what was always Facebook’s most interesting feature. The pandemic of annoying viral vampire-and-zombie apps seems to have ebbed. On top of all that, the service’s population of 300 million now seems to include everyone I’ve ever known since elementary school. So it’s truly the best places to keep track of all the friends and relatives I rarely get to see in person. (I have an uncle in Connecticut whom I haven’t seen since I returned to Boston from California two years ago, but we’ve communicated several times on Facebook.)

So I’m getting over my Facebook aversion. But I still feel a bit lost there. I have a feeling that I could be using my time there much more effectively—but I’m not sure how. What I’d really love is to see a few examples of people who are using their Facebook presence in creative, constructive ways.

So, I want to close with an invitation: send me links to your favorite friends on Facebook, the ones who always seem to be doing cool stuff or sending you cool links, and I’ll feature them (assuming their profiles are public) in a future column on the stars of Facebook. For personal and professional reasons, I’d be most interested in people in the Web, software, or digital media worlds, and those who are based in Xconomy’s home regions—New England, Southern California, and the Pacific Northwest. But everyone is fair game. Please post your suggestions in the comment section below or write to me at wroush@xconomy.com.

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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