Seems to me like the existence of Facebook is seen in either of two ways: either the coolest website in the world, or the most useless one; given I am subscribed, too one would expect me not to be in the latter category; but I really would take offence if you categorized me on the former category!
Indeed, I actually fall into a “third way” category: I find it useful to some point, but not very much. I do use it, and I have both friends, and a few work-related contacts (not many); I also have Gentoo users and developers, but I tend to select who I accept requests from (so if I spoke with you once or twice, it’s rare; if you’re somebody I happened to collaborate with for a while at least, then I’ll probably accept). I don’t feel like it’s an invasion of my privacy, to be honest, since my statuses are almost the same there as they are on identi.ca and twitter; my notes are usually just my own blog, I might do some non-idiotic meme from time to time (more on that later), I don’t really do quizzes or use strange applications. I might have some not-so-public photos, but that’s really just nothing you’d have fun seeing me in, since they are usually nights out with friends; and if it was just for me they could also be public, I don’t care. I do have my full details: phone numbers, street address, email and IM users, but they are not really private details, given that my phone numbers and addresses correspond to my work details, and the rest, well, let’s just say I don’t really have much imagination and you can find me as Flameeyes almost everywhere.
So what’s the usefulness of Facebook at this point in time for me? Well, I do aggregate my blog, to show it to my friends, and let them share it with others so that others can read what I write (I hoped that my post about Venetian public offices ended up shared more but it doesn’t seem like my friends do seem to be interested in real politics outside that of parties); I reach more people, that don’t follow identi.ca or twitter, and I do follow them too, so it really does not add much there either. When somebody I know I have as a contact on Facebook asks me for my details, well, my answer is just “Look at my Facebook profile”; it’s there for a reason). In general, it’s just another medium like this blog, like planets aggregators and so on. It does not really add much. It’s a bit more than an overhyped address book.
One note that is often made is that the idea of finding “people you haven’t seen in years” is pointless because… you haven’t seen them in years for some reason.Sometimes, though, it might just be a problem with losing contacts, going different ways but still interested in getting back in touch and hearing from, from time to time, so it works as a medium for that too.
And on a similar note, why do I find memes interesting, or even useful? Well sometimes you do know somebody, or at least met somebody but don’t know well enough to know some personal nitpicking details; memes might strengthen a bond between people by providing possibilities to compare and identify similar tastes and other stuff. In particular note-based memes (or blog based memes) don’t require you to use stupid third-party applications to do that. Yes I know it might sound silly, but I can use the example of an ex-classmate of mine who I haven’t seen in almost ten years for various reason, until facebook came and we actually found we now have common interests; people grow up and change.
Unfortunately, in all this I don’t see anything that can save Facebook from its financial problems: it really does not work for advertisement, most of the applications seems to be on the limit of fraud, and there is no fee to enter, nor there seems to be any particularly interesting or important paid services (as a counter-example, Flickr’s paid version, with no limit on photo upload and access to the original images, is a service for which even I pay!). For this reason, I really don’t relay (sorry for the words’ game) on Facebook to store important information (so yeah I do keep my address book updated outside of it), I wouldn’t be surprised if next month they start charging for service, or if in four they close down entirely. Nor I would miss them.
And to finish, why on earth am I writing about Facebook now? Well, I just want to warn my readers for why in the next few days they might find some Italian posts talking about Facebook; and in turn that is part of my plan to try instructing my friends and acquaintances on how to behave on the network, and with a computer. Which hopefully will allow me to write it once rather than re-explain it every other time I have to take over a PC to clean up from viruses and other issues.