During the Holidays, I met with my friends and family multiple times and one topic of conversation that came up very often was Facebook. “What’s Facebook?” my mom would ask. “Why are people so fascinated with it” my brother-in-law would add. “It’s useless” or “it’s a waste of time” would also come up very often. The proof of the whole uselessness was the “poking” and the “sending my friends a virtual beer” examples. I tried explaining Facebook the way I’ve explained it many times in this blog but I quickly realized I was getting nowhere. My friends and family members that thought Facebook was useless wouldn’t change opinion even after I explained my big social media theories. “I am Media” did not fly as well in the offline world as in the blogosphere.
What was I doing wrong??? And then it hit me…
Facebook is just a game. That’s it, that’s all.
Yes, it’s a game. Out of the 60M+ monthly active users, most of them are there to have fun, hang out with their friends and reconnect with old ones. Only a few thousands (like Scoble and me) are using it as a broadcasting platform, sharing interesting links, discovering new ways to market products, services and ideas.
So if it’s a game, it must be a complete waste of time, no? No.
Why? People are learning while they’re playing. Remember my blog post showing the speeding up between the introduction of new communication tools? This generation will have to learn two, possibly three new communication tools in their lifetime. E-mail was definitely one of them in the ’90s. And now the next phase of learning is happening right before our eyes and we don’t realize it. Facebook users are discovering social media’s opportunities and pitfalls. They’re learning to blog and micro-blog, post pictures and videos online, They’re learning the proper etiquette in a social media environment. And it’s beautiful to watch.
So, is Facebook relevant today? Yes, like training wheels when you start riding your bike. Will it be relevant in the future? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not important. The key is that a whole cohort of web users will be ready for the next evolution, the social web.