A Facebook apology

For about six months, whenever someone invited me to Facebook, I’d respond with something along the lines of “No, because I’m not twelve”. A bit of a harsh reaction maybe, but the whole marking someone as a “friend” strikes me as kinda high-schoolish. And I’ve seen other social networks before that folded because of a lack of participation. Sure, Friendster may still be around, but do you actually know anyone on it? And I’ve always been concerned about sites that suck up your entire address book and start spamming invites.

This article in Saturday’s Toronto Star changed my mind. Apparently Toronto has, by far, the largest concentration of Facebook users in the world. The number is currently 674,792 – already 4,000 greater than when the article was put together.

Shameful confession: I’m one of those 4,000. I finally answered a “be my friend” invite, and sent apologies to others that I had made fun of before. I still don’t expect to become a Facebook junkie or anything like that, but I have to admit it’ll be handy to track former co-workers and other people that I could otherwise lose touch with.

Social networking is an interesting phenomenon. The usefulness of any networking site is going to be directly proportional to the number of users that you are linked to. This is apparently known as Metcalfe’s Law. The standard example is fax machines – the first fax machine is essentially useless, but it becomes more useful with every fax machine that get added to the network. And every fax machine that is added to a network increases the usefulness of every existing machine.

Since so much of Toronto – and from my initial set of friends and friends-of-friends, a lot of my peer group – is on Facebook, it appears that the site has reached the particular critical mass to suck me in. I’m still not convinced that it’s not going to die out in a few months, but it will be interesting to see what happens.

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