, ,

Facebook is For Children

I admit, like a number of my friends, I first opened a Facebook account in order to have a window on my children’s world. Some of my friends have told me that their children would be embarrassed to have them as friends — and so they are locked out. Others tell me that one reason they have avoided Facebook is because of its reputation as a site for high schoolers and those in or just out of college — not for serious people.

In some ways this also reflects the attitude in general towards managing and interacting in a transparent and collaborative environment. In having access to my college age children’s world, and frankly insisting on being able to see all the content there, I also have to know when to become engaged and when to just observe. Too many questions (e.g. why did you dress like that at that party?, why did you put that silly comment on your wall? etc.) is akin to micro-management and could lead to information being withheld or misrepresented. Not stepping in when necessary (e.g. let’s talk about the drug paraphernalia in that picture, you may not realize the significance of that wall post and how it could be interpreted, etc.) could indicate that you don’t care. It’s a family forum where I can draw on lessons from workplace management, while at the same time I can draw on the behavior I see within the family environment and apply it to a workplace where similar tools promoting transparency and collaboration are being used.

Which then raises the aspect of Social Networking sites like Facebook not being for serious people. To some extent, that’s the point. There may not be a lot of serious discussions taking place within Facebook, but it does present an environment for casual social interaction in which a different set of social skills can be developed, and in which generations can have windows on each others worlds.

I noted that at the outset I opened a Facebook account to have a window on my children’s world. What it has also done, however, is provide them (if they’re interested) with a window to mine. As the number of my friends on Facebook as increased, my children are able to see how I interact with friends from different arenas (from people I’ve known since I was seven years old to those I’ve worked with in the academic sphere to those I hardly really know at all). Going beyond a “Take Your Children to Work Day” experience, it really is an “expose your children, and your friends and colleagues, and online acquaintances to your world”. In that vein, it has also helped me perceive the world in which I interact as one which is transparent, and where I can expect comments from a range of perspectives.

Knowing that there are children and others watching, who will interpret what they see in a way that is different, and knowing that I have to be able to understand their perspective when I look at their pages, has helped me understand the dynamics of these Web 2.0 tools in the new professional environment of Gov 2.0

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Amy Hooker

Really interesting insights, Andre. Even in social media we have the opportunity to lead by example and to learn so much from those around us.

Andre Goodfriend

Amy, thanks. To a large part the social media and, even more importantly the communities they serve, have provided us with environments in which to develop our interpersonal skills within an open environment. To a large part we haven’t used these tools internally very much, and so are getting our first real exposure in public. Finding comfortable places to practice is always helpful.

Nancy Jubb

I completely disagree with your point that Facebook is not for “serious people”. Facebook has opened a whole new element to Public Relations and thus it has become an integral part of “networking”, thus the title “social networking”.

Example: Embassy London decides to host a film contest. By looking up different groups relating to “film” and “london”/”uk”/”england” you can find a huge number of your target audience in a short amount of time. You can then message the creator of the group and request that they then message their members about the film contest on behalf of the Embassy. By connecting this way with several groups, you can be reaching potentially thousands of possible entrants.

Like any great tool, you just have to know how to use it properly. In my opinion, FB is certainly NOT just for children. (The largest growing demographic amounst FB users is the 25 and over category.) So, there! =P

Andre Goodfriend

I’ll stand rebuked, but only because I know you. I won’t stand corrected though.

To some extent I think we agree with each other. I’m relaying comments that I’ve heard from people about why they have not used Facebook, but instead have gone to what are perceived as more “serious” sites geared more towards professional networking.

Facebook draws people in because it is more about socializing than resolving issues and moving people to action on professional matters. But, socializing is also important. Some, like those behind The Cluetrain Manifesto hold that human conversations create the context for all action and issue resolution. They write that “Most corporations … only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal” whereas non-corporate speak is “in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.”

To some extent, learning how to interact on un-serious media like Facebook helps us learn how to be part of the human conversation. It helps us to not be always be “serious people” — and that is a good thing.

Don Jacobson

Andre – This is a great and provocative post. The headline is an attention grabber that may tick some people off, but your analysis is fascinating. I love the idea of letting your kids access your FB account as a way to get greater perspective on you. As Amy said, you are indeed leading by example.


Alice M. Fisher

Based on the Headline, I would like to add just a word of two more.

More than 50% of Facebook Users are outside of college, and the fastest growing demographic is those 30 years old and older, and more than 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States.

No longer do people just gather ’round their living room radio like days of yore….to keep in touch
with what is going on. It’s Facebook and it’s Twitter mania.

Trying to explain the purpose of Facebook today is like trying to explain the purpose of the Internet.
Innovation oft times leads to copy cats, everyone wants to jump on board to get a piece of the pie, and it is ripe fodder for great discussions as later adopters try to grabble with its applicable and/or appropriate use, because it has gotten so hugely popular.

How and why the Internet was developed back in the early 1970’s is really not soooo very very different from why Facebook was developed…Really! Connectivity.

But growth, technology and evolution and people create change.

Facebook Yesterday….

Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook with fellow computer science major students and his roommates Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes while he was a student at Harvard University. Website membership was initially limited to Harvard students, but then expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. Finally, a bit later it expanded further to include any university student, then high school students, and, finally, to anyone aged 13 and over. That did not happen right away.

Facebook received its first investment of US$500,000 in June 2004 from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. This was followed a year later by $12.7 million in venture capital from Accel Partners, and then $27.5 million more from Greylock Partners.

Facebook today…. is not just for children with more than 175 million active users worldwide. This is where the masses are gathering. Citizen participation by on a few degrees of seperation are here. Facebook recently surpassed Myspace in amount of visitors,making Facebook the number 1 social network,followed by Myspace and Twitter. According to comScore, Facebook is the leading social networking site based on monthly unique visitors, having overtaken main competitor MySpace in April 2008. ComScore reports that Facebook attracted 132.1 million unique visitors in June 2008, compared to MySpace, which attracted 117.6 million.

According to Alexa, the website’s ranking among all websites increased from 60th to 7th in terms of worldwide traffic, from September 2006 to September 2007, and is currently 5th. Quantcast ranks the website 15th in US in terms of traffic, and Compete.com ranks it 14th in US.The website is the most popular for uploading photos, with 14 million uploaded daily.

In September 2007, Microsoft approached Facebook, proposing an investment in return for a 5% stake in the company, offering an estimated $300–500 million.[35] That month, other companies, including Google, expressed interest in buying a portion of Facebook.[36]

On October 24, 2007, Microsoft announced that it had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million, giving Facebook a total implied value of around $15 billion. However, Microsoft bought preferred stock that carried special rights, such as “liquidation preferences” that meant Microsoft would get paid before common stockholders if the company is sold. Microsoft’s purchase also included rights to place international ads on Facebook. In November 2007, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing invested $60 million in Facebook.

In August 2008, BusinessWeek reported that private sales by employees, as well as purchases by venture capital firms, had and were being done at share prices that put the company’s total valuation at between $3.75 billion and $5 billion.

In October 2008, Zuckerberg said “I don’t think social networks can be monetized in the same way that search did. … In three years from now we have to figure out what the optimum model is”…..

Clearly, the Facebook Protocol, as is now offically called, is not for childs play only….as it is evolving, growing, and breathing with its 175 Million users.

And, by the second annual F8 developers conference on July 23, 2008, the number of applications on Facebook platform had grown to 33,000, and the number of registered developers has exceeded 660,000.

What we have here is:

1) Big Serious Bucks $$$
2) Big communications in citizen participation with the potential to reach 175 Million actively involved users say on unemployment, environment, healthcare and many many other needs/issues if channeled correctly

3) and a whole lot of other potential for good can be harnessed, if done correctly

I am really really glad to see the very first headline, and I applaud your parenting skills as an involved aware parent, you know where and what your children are doing.

Facebook is a force where GovLoop, and Gov agencies can strategically have a serious impact if their stratgic communcations planning is on the mark and done sonner than later. If you wait 10 or 12 months to start you maybe toooo late.

Remember the key to all strategic communication planning is to really know your target audience, your strategic messaging must be suited to the medium and one must get in early enough to stand out above all the other “noise” clammering for attention.

I’d venture to say that Facebook is a serious player, worth about $15B, and has expanded off-campus; with users from 55,000 different college, high school, business and city networks and internationally-it has more than 35 translations available on the site, with more than 60 in development.

Facebook stats page /www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics
Facebook TimeLine: http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?timeline
Additional Sources:

Hopefully I have changed your mind. Yes I agree children are there, but from my perspective they make up a smaller percentage from an international perspective.

Andre Goodfriend

Well, I figured the title was a bit provocative, but in a friendly way. I like children. And, there is a free-flowing looseness to the structure of most of the Facebook pages I’ve seen that almost forces informality into the pages of even the most stiff-collared among us.

No doubt about it, Facebook has a huge following. But, it could also be a fickle following. Danah Boyd writes about the migration from MySpace to Facebook because of the perception that MySpace was for lower class high schoolers while Facebook had the appeal of being a safer hangout for those of higher status in college. The occasional reporting of the big business underpinnings of Facebook, most recently seen in the furore over the Facebook’s attempt to change its terms of service highlights the tightrope that Facebook as an enterprise is walking.

All that being said, my focus is not on the size of Facebook’s subscriber base or on the source of its funding, but on how its users perceive it and how they use it. I am a strong proponent of the uses and gratifications approach towards working with media. In order to find the best medium on which to make content available, we need to know how our prospective audience perceives and uses the various media.

Social networking sites are still fairly new and, despite the size of their subscriber base, according to a study released in January 2009 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project “younger online adults are much more likely than their older counterparts to use social networks, with 75% of adults 18-24 using these networks, compared to just 7% of adults 65 and older. At its core, use of online social networks is still a phenomenon of the young.”

With regards to how social networking sites are used, the Pew study reports

“Online social network applications are mainly used for explaining and maintaining personal networks, and most adults, like teens, are using them to connect with people they already know.

– 89% use their online profiles to keep up with friends
– 57% use their profile to make plans with friends
– 49% use them to make new friends

Other uses: organize with other people for an event, issue or cause; flirt with someone; promote themselves or their work; make new business contacts”

Anecdotal surveys posted to the internet also highlight the perception that Facebook is primarily very much for social interaction.

Other sites, such as The Facebook Project host a wide range of research and essays on Facebook and the social networking phenomenon, but an underlying contextualizing premise is the youthfulness of the users.

In our own approach to working with social networks, however, I’m not saying that the audience is limited to people in their teens. It does mean though within the Facebook environment the “rules of engagement” will be different than had the site had been premised on its users being venerable, substantive and, dare I say it, serious.

Alice M. Fisher

Fabulous response! Love it. I would love to be a fly on the wall at Facebook strategic meetings to see how it will flesh out in the next three years. Well, maybe that is the whole point, of boiling down culture to non-substantive material. Hold on a second, I think I hear the phone ringing in from Ray Bradbury(Farenheit 451) and Neil Postman ( Amusing Ourselves to Death)

Neil Postman argues that media of communication inherently influence the conversations carried out over them. Postman infered in 1984?? that television was the primary means of communication for our culture and it has the property of converting a culture’s conversations with itself into entertainment, so much so that public discourse on important issues has disappeared. Postman extends his argument(s), that “form excludes the content,” that is, a particular medium can only sustain a particular level of ideas/conversation/content (in sound bites).

I hear what you are saying. I am sure there is value in the evolution of the mediums being used, our job is to find and use the applicable golden nuggets. 🙂 The platform has been built. So I ask, Now what???

And, I go back to my point # 3 wherein a whole lot of other potential for good can be harnessed, if done correctly/strategically.

Awesome discussion! Thx.