Ethan Zuckerman recently published a great blog on Facebook. Here’s an excerpt, but read the whole post.
Algorithms, Unbirthdays and Rewiring Facebook
Tuesday was my birthday, and I spent the day largely offline. That meant that Wednesday morning, my email inbox featured hundreds of messages from Facebook, each alerting me to a birthday greeting on my Wall. (I’m an infrequent Facebook user, so I usually find these sorts of alerts useful and haven’t disabled them.) On the one hand, this outpouring of online affection was wonderful – I felt grateful to be remembered by people I’ve not spoken to since high school.
On the other hand, it’s basically impossible to respond to the flood of messages with anything other than “Thanks!” And, of course, there’s usually nothing to the message than the greeting itself – the message is symbolic, not substantive. Which left me thinking
- I should be better about logging onto Facebook and sending my own symbolic, semantically void greetings
- I should write a Facebook ap that partitions my friends into 365 roughly equally sized groups and encourages me to say hi to that specific, small set of people on that day. I’d occasionally reach someone on their birthday (though I could add additional logic to pick only unbirthday folks.) Unbirthday notes would arrive on days when people weren’t overwhelmed, and might actually spark a conversation and a chance to catch up.
Socially transgressive, or a helpful hack for building actual conversations between out of touch friends? Would other people resist such a rewiring of Facebook and the social norms it embodies, or embrace it?