Facebook’s generational challenge

Last month, I posted about Facebook’s issue with ads. I just had two fascinating interactions with the site that point to the good news and the bad news about their future.

I’ll confess I’m not a Facebook user. I have an account as a way of checking it out, but I’ve ‘friended’ very few people. Why? Because if I friend you, especially someone I don’t know, I’m giving you explicit permission to start a fairly intense series of interactions. This makes good commercial sense if you’re an insurance salesman or even a musician looking for gigs, but if you’ve got a limit on the time you can invest, it’s not only time-consuming, it’s a recipe to bitterly disappoint people. I’m amazed at people who claim to have a thousand friends on FB. Friendship is a little like the Navy. Either you’re in or you’re out.

What I’ve recently discovered is that even my real friends, the handful I’ve got on my list, aren’t so good at answering messages (at least messages from me). Three out of the last four people I pinged, folks that would always answer a phone call or an email, haven’t written back. That’s probably because my generation hasn’t figured out how to filter, prioritize and work with the incoming the way we have with email.  This test group appears to have fallen into the trap of accepting friend requests because they didn’t want to offend people and now they’re overwhelmed with noise, all of it at precisely the same level of urgency. There’s no doubt that technology will come up with a far better solution–networked friend-based messaging ought to be super smart and efficient.

The flipside? A friend got into college last week. The university gave her a list of the kids from our state who also got in. Within 24 hours, they were all friends. ALL of them! They knew who knew who, what they looked like, what their histories were. Facebook to the rescue. A new network built on the old network within minutes. By the time September rolls around, they won’t need college, they’ll need a reunion.