Monday, October 16, 2006

What does our sustained participation in Facebook mean?

Given the state of social-network communities today, the nature of sustained adult friendship, contact and communication between people in the future will be different from the friendships observed in our parents' generations.

Friends, social cliques, groups, organizations, companies, cohorts, and neighborhoods will be woven together not only by their physical associations and shared interests but also by those social networks, such as Facebook, that the users were already part of and have been participating in for a large portion of their lives.

Assuming we all stay involved, the Facebook users today who will also be users in the future will be able to keep in touch with their past friends, aquaintances, and associates with much more ease than in the past.

College friend networks will run deep as we all age.

Travelling to a new part of the world? See who you know or whom others might know already living there.

Changing occupations? Maybe you know someone with a shared interest.

Looking to reconnect after paths went different ways? Social-networking communities provide a crucially sustainable link.

The future of habitat and living will be augmented by the presence of existing social-network systems. Access to a gated country-club community, your new apartment complex, the local farmer's market, or even a low-income housing project will be accompanied by an interest by those desiring participation to establish 'friend' status with those on the inside. These connections may be free and friendly, or they may be a commodity or even a stimulus for hostility.

Of course, not everyone will participate in the networks. Some may cut themselves off from the networks in attempts to shape power structures, institute new forms of network-observation, or even as a way to construct their own "autonomous" communes.

Our physical lives will evolve in proximity to social-network lives. We will be able to observe our physical lives from our social-network perspective (as we can do now in uploaded photographs), and we will be able to observe our social-network lives from our physical perspective (such as in-person communication outside the network's known grid).

Our children will belong to social-networks just as we do. But unlike us, it is likely our children will inhabit the networks adjacent to their parents, as well as with their parents' social-network data histories (our photos, bio-stats, notes, blog entries, connections).

The presence of these intergenerational data histories in intergenerationally co-inhabited networks will alter how youth, born in the future, think about history, their ancestors and the stories and images of the past.

What else does our sustained participation in Facebook mean?

How many friends do your parents have from long-ago? How have they kept in contact? If many of the connections could have been sustained through Facebook, what do you think the world would look like?

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