Saturday, February 5, 2011

Facebook Schizophrenia

Even people who never used Facebook know its story now, thanks to a film entitled 'The Social Network'. Like many brilliant concepts, however, and especially those that are brought into existence on the internet, Facebook has morphed into something quite different from a traditional 'social network'.

'Friends and Family' is a concept that is easily defined in ordinary social terms, but where Facebook is concerned, it no longer is valid. With the proliferation of free games on the 'Social Network', Facebook users are urged to 'invite' more people to become Friends and Neighbours, thereby widening the circle of influence of the Network. The games not only encourage this but actually create situations where new options can be unlocked only if the player has a specific number of 'Neighbours' or 'Allies', depending on the type of game.

'Friends and Family' in the traditional sense are not the same as 'Neighbours' or 'Friends' in the context of a specific game. One may be very happy to share private details such as telephone number and address with REAL Family and Friends, but when one extends the range of Family and Friends to include individuals one never has met and is unlikely to meet in the ordinary world, however wonderfully they may behave in the context of the game, problems arise.

Facebook officially now restricts any individual to a single account and demands real details about that individual's current life. A gamer who would prefer to keep his/her personal details separate from gaming is in a difficult situation.

Facebook really should have two separate networks, one for real social contacts and one for gaming contacts. Users should be able to create at least one account for each. In fact, in terms of gaming, why shouldn't users be able to create as many accounts as they wish? The danger in widening the ordinary Facebook circle of 'Family and Friends' to include individuals who ask to be Neighbours or Allies in a game is becoming greater, as Facebook now demands more personal details and issues 'credits' that can be purchased as well through Paypal or via debit or credit card.

That is not to say one can't make REAL friends through games. Some of my dearest friends were introduced to me via Harvest Moon or Rune Factory and I know that I would be happy to meet many of my Facebook gaming 'Neighbours' in real life.

My point is that the standard of acceptance of a person as a 'Friend' on Facebook is different when one is attempting to obtain more Neighbours for the purpose of unlocking options in a game.

I understand why social networks would be wary of individuals who create accounts under other names if the motivation is sexual and predatory, but in the context of gaming, it really does not make ANY sense to restrict players to a single account, especially when all of these games, although free, offer options that require real investment in cash.

I do think, however, that it is time for Facebook to reorganise itself, splitting games and social networking. If this separation were possible, players no longer would need to fear the disclosure of their personal details to true 'Friends and Family' and gamers would be able to interact with fellow gamers without any need to divulge ANY personal details whatsoever.

The internet is a world that constantly needs to be updated and Facebook, in my opinion, has introduced a category of 'social interaction' in the form of gaming that requires drastic changes.

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