Ah my poor blog, languishing neglected out there in the ether. Finally, as you can tell, here are some of the recent things I've been thinking about. One of these is the fast growing phenomenon of Facebook
. Now, I have to confess that I approached Facebook with a degree of sceptism, but have found myself increasingly seduced by its lure (although I am only 14% addicted according to its statistics, unlike my better half who is 29% addicted). So why do I like facebook and what kinds of questions does it make me ask?
Well, I like facebook because I am, essentially, quite a friendly / nosey person, and I like seeing what is going on with friends (be they close or not so close) but don't have time to keep up with them all face-to-face. So I really enjoy the fact that I can flick on and see snippets of what is happening with my friends as far flung as oz, across the UK, the US. Nothing beats the face-to-face, of course. Facebook will never replace actually hanging out with these guys, but when they are far, far away (to quote Shrek
) that is not likely to happen, and this is a convenient, asynchronous substitute. So, for me personally, facebook is a social thing.
What kinds of questions does it make me ask? Well, first of all, it makes me ask whether facebook is a transliterate way of doing relationships. If transliteracy
involves moving across different platforms, invoking multimodality, being aware of context and so on, then is my online version of 'catching up' a form of transliteracy? And what does this do to how we manage relationships? One thing that facebook does is to bring all your friends together into your profile without subcategorising them into the real world communities into which they belong. And so what you disclose gets seen by them all, whether they are contacts through work, or family friends, or students (past and present). And that, for sure, is slightly wierd, at least when you start using facebook. The collapsing of distinct social networks means that I seem to work to the 'lowest common denominator'. That is, I try and disclose only that which I am prepared to let all of them see. For some people, that means they say and do nothing. I tend to be pretty open about my personal life (my Facebook profile says I have a ridiculously high degree of extraversion), so slightly more than nothing gets into my status updates. But I have got more bland and non-descript, conscious of who sees what.
I also wonder what kind of linguistic resource Facebook might be. Is it something we might use to trace how internet language is evolving within certain social networks
. For the 30 million users of facebook (did I get that right?) Facebook categories them by age, gender and so on. So a sociolinguist or anthropologist might go and look at usage patterns, profile construction as a means of doing identity, the language that gets used on people's walls. I'm sure there is a PhD in there somewhere. I haven't figured out yet where or how Facebook archives the updates, or if they are publically accessible. But I wonder if this might build some kind of multifaceted narrative in itself, where the chronological updates are micro-entries in an ongoing life story. And would women and men write different kinds of updates? What kinds of things do they say?
Food for thought. But the offline mode of doing life with people is calling. Let's hope I make it back to the blog sooner than the last time!
Labels: facebook transliteracy social networks