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Facebook's Failings as a Platform for Organizers

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, August 9 2010

Veteran activist/organizer/thinker Adina Levin puts into words an open question running underneath our discussion last week about the dynamics of Sarah Palin's Facebook engagement. Facebook's built for, well, friendship, really, or at least as a tool for faciliating the budding of the same. Does that make it a bad choice for organizing? And if so, what then? Levin:

In the Facebook social model, it’s not very socially acceptable to “friend” someone you don’t actually know. The Facebook model is designed for people who are already “friends”. A “friend” relationship is symmetrical – both need to acknowledge the relationship. Facebook does have a separate built-in asymmetrical type of relationship. Institutions or celebrities can create “pages” that fans can “like”. The model sets up a hard dichotomy between people, who have friends, and celebrities who have fans. It doesn’t make social sense for a celebrity or institution to “like” one of its fans. By contrast, in Twitter, it is easy and socially acceptable to follow someone without their following you back. With this affordance and social practice, it is easy to become familiar with someone’s tweets, and use lightweight social gestures including retweets and replies to over time get their attention and make their acquaintance.

Now is as good a time as any to watch or rewatch the above trailer for the coming Aaron Sorkin-penned Facebook movie, called "The Social Network." Yes, I really just wanted a chance to embed that trailer; it's rather breathtaking. Could it be more dramatic? But it does remind us that Facebook was engineered in only 2004 to enable a certain sort of college-based social interaction. What politicians and advocacy groups are doing with it now is, as Levin's post suggests, retrofitting. (via Beth Kanter)

Bonus: If they made a movie about the invention of YouTube...

Update: From Twitter comes a bit of perspective. "But FB has over 400 mn users," writes Patrick Egan. "Period."