Cafe Witness

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Has the Social Network Exodus Begun?

** UPDATES to this post at the bottom **

It's official: Michael Bailey is off MySpace and Facebook.

If you don't know Michael personally, you've probably never been to a social media function. I've known Michael to pop up at PodCamps from Boston to Pittsburgh, and at VON in San Jose and PME in SoCal -- all from his homebase in Missouri. For quite awhile, Michael has been one of the few active cross-coast socializers originating from the Midwest.

And he just admitted today that it's mostly bullshit.

Now, granted, Michael has been known to ruffle feathers. Michael is a pot-stirrer, like myself, and is often just as interested in seeing HOW people react as he is in WHAT they actually have to say.

But he brings up a great point, via Twitter:
When you lower the bar of what really matters and what is important, things like social networks crop up like weeds... You all know how to get ahold of me, you have my email address, my cell #, my address. If it matters, reach out, attach yourself.
Let's ignore, for the moment, the fact that not EVERY interaction requires a phone call or an email. (Michael himself would admit that.) The bigger question is:

What PURPOSE Do Social Networks Serve in our Daily Lives?

I myself never use MySpace for personal communication anymore. When I started blogging and Twittering, MySpace lost out in the time sink.

I've also not bothered to join Facebook. Surprisingly, I'm still alive, healthy and getting work.

LinkedIN? The most it's done for me is pepper my inbox with arbitrary questions from people I barely know, about job openings or tech issues. No real traction there.

Pownce? Never bothered.

Delicious? Haven't used it in years.

What Michael (and I) seems to be saying is: the signal-to-noise ratio (god, I love Web 2.0 buzzwords; perhaps they'll someday have a Smithsonian display all their own) is reaching the point of pointlessness.

I've heard many people, myself included, muse about the possibility of deleting their MySpace accounts, now that they've essentially become spam boxes. Perhaps there's a temptation to migrate to Facebook, or whatever else comes next.

But, for people like Michael, perhaps Seth Porges is right -- perhaps social networking is a trend that's about to end.

Do YOU still need YOUR MySpace account?

(Side note: In the earlier days of Twitter, when the system was even buggier [if that's possible], there was a massive one-day defection to Jaiku. It was led by Chris Brogan and Robert Scoble, two of the most influential social media voices. And, of course, when Twitter came back, so did everyone else.

Had they stayed gone, what would have happened to Twitter?

Michael Bailey isn't as much of an inciter as Scoble or Brogan, but his point is much more valid. I'm interested to see if there's a tipping point here, and how close Michael comes to it.)

** UPDATE (8:27 PM Oct 3rd): I just canceled my MySpace account as well. Odd, how a service I once spent so much time on is now something I avoid at all costs. Granted, when I started on MySpace (in 2004), I was single and the service was new -- two great hooks to occupy my time. But now, I have so many other ways to keep up with people, I just don't NEED MySpace.

I still have an STBD account there, though. Why? Because that's the only way some people watch our show, so as long as there's an STBD, there might as well be an STBD MySpace...

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  • I would venture to guess that had Scoble and that other guy (already forgot who you said it was) stayed on Jaiku and didn't come back to Twitter it wouldn't have made a difference.

    Twitter *is* a useful technology and I see you on it all the time Justin. :)

    The exodus from social networks hasn't begun with the departure of someone I don't even know. Your right, i haven't been to PodCamp. But thats the point though - most people who use Twitter, or Pownce, or Facebook haven't either.

    Sure, the "technocrats" out there will move from service to service - it is their nature. But for the rest of us, the non "A-List", Twitter is just fine. And so is Facebook. Hell, even MySpace has its place.

    I do agree that social networks are popping up like weeds though. I'd rather see some highly specialized, narrowly focused communities created than ones like Quechup which are just about covering old ground.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 5:56 PM  

  • You just keep stirring that pot there Justin. Or whatever your doing with that pot.

    Those that are proclaiming this exodus are only voicing the opinions of a very small group of users. Thousands of people are "just starting" social networks, they're not going to pull the book on Facebook because some "fanboys are tired" of the service. Hell Edgar Snyder just joined Facebook!

    There will be those (me included) that will jump at the newest/bestest/coolest new thing. We'll be wanting to check it out. See what it offers. And see if it will offer a better service than what they were using before. As william pointed out, the "technocrats" are gonna stake their claims on what's too cool for school.

    By Blogger BlackThir13en, at 6:17 PM  

  • There's no exodus. It's migration.

    Depending on who you are or what you do, you use a different service. Musicians use myspace more than linkedin, for instance. Some people use facebook instead of either one. Some people post videos to youtube and some post to their own servers or a particular host, like

    It's easy for it to look like an exodus if you don't see where everyone went. The Twitter => Jaiku thing was DEFINITELY an exodus! :D Twitter had proven HIGHLY unreliable at that point, and people were finding themselves left in the dark unexpectedly. They didn't move to Jaiku because it was better or even equal to Twitter. They moved because it worked when Twitter didn't and gave enough of the same functionality to remain connected through the rest of the day.

    My personal exodus has been from the phone. People don't seem to get that. Not only don't I ever pick up the phone, I can't even hear phones ring. If you call me, my answering machine tells you to catch me on the internet and google me if you don't know how to do that. If you're calling me, you SHOULD know what my name is, which means you can find out what my email address is or my iChat nick. Still... People continue to leave messages on my answering machines and wonder why they don't hear from me for weeks.... if at all.

    By Blogger Bill Cammack, at 6:25 PM  

  • I like what blackthir13en said "Those that are proclaiming this exodus are only voicing the opinions of a very small group of users."

    Funny - a similar thing was said when podcasting started, not of an exodus, but of a revolution, which was later changed to an evolution.

    So, is it an exodus? Sure it is. Some people just take longer to exit, and there will always be others to take their place - to some, they will never notice.

    I stir the pot?
    That might be true; I call it being realistic, but since reality is 100% perception, there is never one single viewpoint - always more. Is one more correct than the other? Well, that depends upon your perspective. ;-)

    Twitter is useful - never disputed that.

    End the end, they are all tools, and we all end up with the most useful ones to us, in our own toolbox.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:33 PM  

  • I'm considering getting rid of MySpace page. It really serves no purpose for me right now. I get the occasional comment or message but that is about it. Also, so much needless personal information is on there that sometimes I prefer that it not be.

    Still so many people are still on MySpace I would kind of feel awkward not having one.

    By Blogger Teresa, at 8:45 PM  

  • "Still so many people are still on MySpace I would kind of feel awkward not having one."

    Yeah, I say that about quitting smoking, instead of doing what I know is right, I choose not to.

    I'll bet that people could replace the "MySpace" in that statement with just about any other word, and it still fits our need to belong.

    try, Church, Crack, Drinking, etc.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:46 PM  

  • I joined MySpace in 03 and finally canceled my account over a year ago. My eyes couldn't take the abortion of code design that people were throwing up there and the band Spoon hijacked my personalized URL. Oh and tech support blows.

    I did start up a Should I Drink That? account for the podcast against my will but I felt our show needed one because it is hella easy exposure and sure as shit we get a ton of traffic from there now.

    I didn't sell my soul to MySpace, just my show's :)

    All of these social networking sites are what you want to make of it. Saying there's an exodus means a large number of people leaving and I really don't see that happening just because a couple names are dropping off.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:36 AM  

  • I HATE Myspace. I always have. The only reason I have one and continue to login once or twice a week is stay in contact with old high school friends. Unfortunitly Arizona is a little slow with the whole social media thing, so MyWaste is really the only tool they use. So I post my videos there as bullitens and get messages from various people from time to time on either something I posted or something they have going on. That's about it. If all of a sudden all my high school friends jumped to facebook or even Twitter, I would gladly dump that POS.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:54 AM  

  • Personally the only reason why I still use Myspace is that my sister still uses it. But she's slowly being converted.

    By Blogger BlackThir13en, at 9:13 AM  

  • It doesn't matter. It's part fad, part reality, part in the moment. It's not what is being used, but what supports its use, namely ads. As the funnel narrows, support will either shift or die. Facebook is still on target, but many, many people in the world who are not <30 could give a crap about social anything. I work with many 20 somethings who also couldn't give a crap. Web 2.0 is going away to be replaced with real generational spanning material benefiting services. The narcissist me generation is starting to wakeup, realizing even the "Valley" is parochial.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:30 PM  

  • Eric Rice says it all the time: I go where my friends are. I love that idea, because it shows that NONE of the softwares are likely to live forever, or even very long. Instead, it's a matter of finding the ones that let us interact in the way we find useful.

    By Blogger Chris Brogan, at 7:11 AM  

  • It cannot have effect as a matter of fact, that's exactly what I suppose.
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    By Anonymous Raphael, at 1:01 AM  

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