Holiday conversations with friends have led me to consider the idea of social networking and how sites like these continue to do nothing other than help people who already know each other find ways to connect and stay in touch, rather than serving as mechanisms for likeminded people to find each other and interact in meaningful ways.
Now I know lots of people who use these sites as a way to meet folks, but I’m not among them. In part because there is a “creep” factor involved in the process. That is, you don’t want to be a creep. When you look at LinkedIn versus say Facebook, the contrast is stark. In part because of the sort of professional nature of one versus the other. You can usually add someone you meet at a party on Facebook, but unless you’ve had a conversation with them, adding them on LinkedIn probably isn’t as likely to happen.
So again, the question is, “What’s the point?” As these sites scramble to monetize and find a way to keep themselves relevant as the next biggest, baddest thing gets developed, you just have to wonder if these latent trading card profile sites are really going to outlive their value (if they haven’t already.)
I’ve had a ton of interesting, informative and pleasant conversations with folks who I’ve met via friends. But I’ve yet to meet someone on a social network who I didn’t already meet on my own either in real life or via some professional network on the web. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, maybe these sites are just around to help us keep up with our long lost friends or connections we make at different points in our lives.
But I have a hard time believing there is a business model embedded in that.
The bottom line is, when you’re meeting people you don’t know, they’re expecting that you’re either trying to sell them something they don’t want or you’re trying to proposition them in some way. I think that’s the model that most sites right now don’t seem interested in employing.
Facebook is too busy trying to turn itself into a platform, others are attempting to burnish out a model that allows them to stay afloat in a marketplace that’s competitive and isn’t waiting around for them to get their acts together.
It’s just something of a joke that it was easier to meet people online in the 1990s than it is now. I suppose it’s easier for those of us who find ourselves in professional settings, especially within a niche. But for those generalists among us, it’s a much more of a challenge.