Facebook- What is the Big Deal?

I joined Facebook last night and have spent a few hours trying to work it all out and add friends etc. But what is the big deal about it? What does it offer that I can’t get from email or IM etc?

Essentially, an opportunity to look up old friends, schoolmates, whatnot. I’ve run across people I haven’t seen for twenty to twenty-five years and added them as friends. Not that I talk with them all the time now, but it’s kinda cool to see what they’re up to.

I don’t use email for personal business, for the most part. I use email at work, and to communicate with companies I do business with. This wasn’t the case a few years ago, but I find that Facebook provides a much simpler way to communicate asynchronously with friends. I also find it to be an easy way to keep up with what’s going on with others, and I’ve found it quite useful for networking – both socially, and at work.

Conversation-type discourse. The ‘wall-to-wall’ stuff. Think of it as rather like a conversation between two of your friends, while sat around with a large bunch of them socialising. If a third friend hears the topic and has something to say, they can join in. Or it’s OK for people simply to listen to what’s being said. Nothing creepy about that, but I can’t see how email could offer this. It also doesn’t happen in real time, meaning that other commitments, or time zones, don’t make it difficult to keep up.

Photo sharing. Sure, you could email all your holiday photos, and some old ones, and whatever else, to everybody in your address book. Really, that would be overkill, though…the way photo tagging works means photos are brought to individuals’ attention when they’re involved, plus the way it’s possible to browse recent friends’ albums. Try scanning an old school class picture and putting it up, and tagging people, and see how much of a response you get! (Of the 25 people in my primary school class in the 1980s, I’ve now got 17 tagged and befriended, none of whom I was in regular contact with.)

Keeping track of what people are up to. This can sound voyeuristic, but remember that you only going to see what they want to share. If everybody sent all this in massive emails, it would be a ridiculous overload of information (imagine those letters inside christmas cards, but updated every day, from everyone who sends you a card). You get to look at or ignore the bits you are or aren’t interested in.

None of these (or other things) are deal-makers in themselves, it’s the combined result which is just so very different from email, IM, or the telephone.

That, and some of the aps are fun as well. My sister got me to join because she wanted to play Text Twirl with me.

I have to agree about finding old friends. Not only can I find people I went to high school with, which was Classmates.com’s thing, but I’ve found people I went to college and even elementary school with (I went to elementary school in a different state, so elementary and high school are not the same people at all!) All for absolutely free!

I’m a recent Facebook member, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit. For me, it’s a good middle ground between a website and a home page. I’d like my website to be business-like (if I ever get around to finishing it!), and Facebook is very much like a pre-fab, fancied up home page - not so business like, and yet, there are lots of people who have been/will be my bosses if they choose to hire me again that are my ‘friends’.

The shininess of it is a big attraction - for those who have lots of spare time, there are time-killing games and quizzes, there are lots of ways to get in touch with someone without having to actually write anything, from ‘poking’ them, to sending them a ‘plant’ for their virtual garden, to sending them ‘good karma’ or a guitar…

The arts community in Canada have glommed on to facebook in a huge way, and for us, it’s a fantastic way to keep people up to date on your latest show, auditions, concerts. Because (in theory, anyway - I’m sure a clever hacker could find a way around the ‘You must be a friend to see this person’s profile’ screen.) your contact information is secure, people have posted their e-mail addresses, cell phone numbers, street addresses, temporary addresses in foreign cities… I really could have used it this summer, where there was no internet access except during library hours (which coincided precisely with rehearsal hours). Being able to post a gig announcement and invite a bunch of people and their friends to look at it is way easier than doing mass e-mailings with web-mail.

Also, if anyone’s interested, there are two Straight Dope groups on facebook - Straight Dopers and The Straight Dope

It’s a great way to keep up with your friends and sorta-kinda-friends in a way that doesn’t involve having to interact with them directly.

You might keep in touch with your friends over email and IM, but how often do you want to have a long conversation with a cousin you haven’t seen in 5 years or a co-worker from 2 jobs ago? With Facebook you can see what they’re up to, maybe match wits with them, and not actually have to converse with them. It’s brilliant.

I agree with GorillaMan. It’s a great way to stay in touch and see the developments in friends’ lives, without directly having to ask for updates. I like that it’s controlled, so that no one I don’t know can look at the photos I have posted of my daughter, etc.

It’s a great way for me to keep in touch with my daughter (now away at college). And since most of my “mom” friends are now back at work, it’s a way to keep up with them as well. I also like to see pics of people and just to be able to peek in and see how they’re doing. It’s a convenient way to keep up to date with long distance friends, too.

And I will confess to being a Scrabble addict. I’m not thrilled with Scrabble Beta, but it is improving, slowly.

I only joined because one of my friends had photos she wanted me to see and they were on Facebook.

I must admit, I now check it everyday. I can now keep up with my sister who lives back East, and of course, various Dopers. I also get to talk to my daughter, whom I never get to see because she’s at work or school all the time.

I hate Facebook personally, but I still have one just because my friends do. It’s useful for sharing photos, and organising events. It’s also useful for getting back in touch with people you never liked much in high school anyway or you wouldn’t need Facebook to find them again, and by “getting back in touch” I mean adding and ignoring each other, which sounds pointless until you realise it increments your “friends” counter by one, which is the important thing.

To echo what others have said: great way to keep up with high school and college friends who you have lost touch with. For example, I have over 50 friends from high school on Facebook. There’s an alumni group for both my high school and college, and that has been a lot of fun…

I also have a lot of family members on Facebook, so it’s easy to keep up with them, share photos, etc.

Finally, most of my friends are on there, so I can keep up with what they’re doing, see photos of their kids, etc.

And now for the obligitory link to the SDMB Facebook group!

Yeah, I thought it was a complete waste of bandwidth for a long time. Then I discovered that a coworker in San Jose was on it. I work with her only occasionally but she headed the project that I now have so has a lot of information that I could use. Since we don’t really know each other there wasn’t much discourse, but since she’s on Facebook all the damn time we can informally exchange non work related comments and etc. thus enhancing our working relationship. Almost like going to lunch occasionally with someone 1000 miles away.

Other than that? Haven’t found much use for it.

I find it good for keeping in touch with old classmates, fraternity brothers, former coworkers, and even friends of friends I meet at various events and such.

For example, a bunch of guys from my old high school paintball team (we had a group of probably about 15 core people and another 20 casual players) just started a group and we’ve been spending some time reminiscing. Most of us haven’t been in touch in probably 17 years.

My old college roomate who I never liked much linked to me.

Actually, I find it kind of a bit weird linking to people I haven’t seen in 10+ years.

The best thing about Facebook is that it seems like EVERYONE has it. I used it to get in touch with some old friends with common names that Google had failed me on. (Well, unless I wanted to look through eight zillion webpages to figure out which John Smith was my old friend from college.) It’s also good for keeping in touch with people whom you like but maybe aren’t so close that you’d be emailing with them constantly. I met a couple of American girls in a very odd place (a diner on the Albanian/Macedonian border) in the spring, and ended up traveling with them for three days. Without Facebook, I’d have totally lost touch with them. But now I know what they’re up to and I can ask them what’s up for time to time. That’s pretty damned cool.

Also, I just went back to school this fall and I’m finding it neat for communicating with my classmates - just because they ALL have Facebooks. We write back and forth to each other about homework and whatnot on our walls.

AFAICT, it’s not that Facebook itself is so fantastic (although it’s a hell of a lot better than MySpace, which made my head hurt), it’s just that the ubiquity makes it very convenient for various purposes.