Notes on the "Death" of Friendster

Techcrunch reports that Friendster, a pioneer of social networking, is going to wipe out photos, blogs, comments, testimonials, comments, and groups on May 31st.  Reading through the comments and some of the thoughts of friends and acquaintances, it’s fairly easy to see some consensus forming: that “Friendster is dead,” and would be part of a running “body count” of social networks that have gone the way of the 404 (or some other more apt analogy).

It’s hard to argue with the obvious that a Darwinian (or to be more accurate, Spencerian) flavor is present in social networks after the seeming dominance of Facebook in the social networking space.  Only the fit social networking sites survive, and it just so happens that Facebook and Twitter are the fittest of them all.  I’d venture to say that nobody uses Friendster anymore.  From the looks of things, what was once a vibrant and exciting community of friends and users has somehow ebbed into relative obscurity in favor of social networks driven by apps and APIs, and where entire digital marketing disciplines cover just one or two mega-platforms.

I won’t claim to be an “expert” on social media or anything, but I’d just like to stick my neck out and say that maybe – just maybe – the idea that “Friendster is dead” is wrong.

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Did It Fail?

TJ Dimacali of GMANews.TV wrote an interesting article last Wednesday (that gives you how much free time I have these days, LOL) on whether or not last week’s cartoon-characters-against-child-abuse Facebook meme actually worked.  It’s interesting because it somehow reflects on the state of social media, and puts a good frame of reference in its position in society.

While we can disagree about the robustness of the methodology used in the article (the set of keywords, the tools used, the interpretation of results), the result propounded by Mr. Dimacali is fairly conclusive: the virality of the meme did not translate to action, much less a commensurate increase in interest for child abuse.  Be that as it may, we do not know how many people actually did the meme, or if the meme was indeed executed by users to support the cause against child abuse.  For purposes of this entry, let’s leave it at that.

In a previous column for The Philippine STAR, I wrote that while social media amplifies conversations, it often does so at the expense of other issues that deserve amplification.  Conversations have the tendency to spiral into silence: in a multi-faceted meme like the cartoon characters on Facebook profile pictures, the fun factor is amplified at the expense of the issue.

Did the meme fail?  I don’t think so.

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Laws of Online Memetics

Law of Memetic Inertia

If the sum of all forces acting upon a subject is zero, then the trajectory of thought of that subject is constant.

A subject at rest will move towards a bias when force acts upon it.

All forces on the Internet are biased.  There is no objective solution.

Law of Accelerated Opinion

A subject subjected to a force accelerates towards opinions that have the same direction and trajectory as the opinion.

The magnitude of the acceleration of the subject’s opinion is directly proportional to the mass, and inversely proportional to the force applied on it.

Opinion does not need an issue in order to be formed and accelerated.

Law of Non-Commensurate Overreaction

For every action offline or online (or lack thereof), there is an unequal and non-commensurate reaction online.

The mutual actions of two subjects acting upon each other are dependent on supporters, followers, gall, and the amount of time a subject is willing to spend online to defend the non-commensurate overreaction.

Fuckwad Effects

Sometime last year, I wrote about the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory in the context of John Suler’s online disinhibition effect thesis.  Today, there is growing interest in adding the conceptual form of Internet addiction in DSM-V, mostly because of real social problems brought about by translations of real-world behavior online.

The sociologist William Isaac Thomas, in his statement on the definition of the situation, sets it out clearly: if people define their situations as real, they are real in their consequences.  For the longest time, we’ve considered the “online universe” as something disjoint from society: in reality, all our actions online, no matter how anonymous, have a direct effect on our offline lives when it has a consequence.

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