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Social Networks and Symmetrical Information

Snarkmarket has been running a theme thread on the ambiguous nature of online social networking. And what I mean by ambiguity is that no one is really sure yet about the true value or uselessness of it all.

You write something with the intent that EVERYONE — all of your Twitter followers, or Facebook friends, or blog sub­scribers — will read it. Inevitably, however, it winds up missing some of them. I might even add, it winds up missing MOST of them.

This is because for most people, messages on social networks aren’t actually messages, discrete items with a sender and recipient, but a broadcast. Face­book is like a television that’s always turned on. Sometimes you watch it intently, absorbed in what you see; sometimes you’re staring at it, bored, wait­ing for something good to come on; sometimes, it’s just background noise; and sometimes, you leave it on while you go on vacation so that people think someone is home. If you’re trying to reach the reader/viewer of a social net­work as broadcast, your status update or blog post or heart felt plea for help is just as likely to reach a blank couch as it is a living, breathing person at the other end.

Be sure to also check out this post and the discussion in the comments.