Monday, September 10, 2007

Facebook – cocaine for the Internet generation?

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I was blogging about social networks on the Internet and how I thought that Facebook was being colonized by older people not just students and other youngsters. And now I find that Facebook is being treated by some companies as the most evil thing since the last virus or worm infection!

What’s happened is that Facebook has caught on, and a large number of ordinary working people have uploaded photos to it and linked with other “friends”. That all sounds rather good – where’s the harm in that? Well it seems that these same working people have been seduced by the many “applications” available with Facebook – and I particularly like Pandora (but that’s because I listen to
www.pandora.com anyway), Where I’ve been, and My aquarium. But the truth is, there are lots of these applications, such as: FunWall, Horoscopes, Fortune cookie, My solar system, The sorting hat, Moods, Superpoke, Likenesses, Harry Potter magic spells, etc, etc.

The problem is two-fold for employers. Firstly, too many employees are spending too much time interacting with their friends, uploading photos and videos, and messing about with the applications. The “lost” hours of work are mounting up, and so companies are banning access to Facebook. Some are allowing access at lunch times and after the defined working day, but other companies, apparently, have gone for a blanket ban.

The second problem is that large amounts of a company’s broadband bandwidth is being used by Facebookers rather than people doing productive work.

The third problem is that these applications seem to get round corporate firewalls and anti-virus software, with the result that they create a backdoor through which anything nasty could enter. No-one wants a security risk left undealt with.

This must be good publicity for Facebook, making it seem especially attractive – nothing boosts sales of a product like a ban! However, many wiser heads have been here before. I remember the first computer game – the one that was text only, and where a small dwarf threw an axe at you and killed you. Lots of hours were lost with that until the mood passed. More recently MSN has been banned at some sites because people spent all day talking to each other on that rather than getting on with work. These things come in phases, work time is lost, then the mood changes, work is caught up with and that old hot item is ignored. I would expect to see, this time next year, that Facebook is still popular, but not so compulsive as it is now. People won’t need to be banned from Facebook because they will not feel compelled to access it. But, I would bet, there’ll be some other must-visit Website, and we’ll be off again!

These things have been compared to crack cocaine and other “recreational” drugs. In truth they can be very compulsive for a while, but, unlike narcotics, eventually you want less-and-less of them not more-and-more.

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