IHT: ‘Behind Facebook’s success: It takes a village’

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Ever wonder why it’s so satisfying knowing a little about what is happening to everyone in your Facebook network, and, in the case of Twitter, knowing what is happening to people you barely know? Here is an interesting reflection on the subject

Behind Facebook’s success: It takes a village

By Anand Giridharadas, posted March 26th 2009

Twitter and Facebook are, OMG, so last millennium.

Or so it seems as I look out through my window in the forested Indian village where I am living, one of those places that the future has yet to invade.

A row of modest houses faces me. All day long, as I write, their inhabitants talk. And I have discovered through their talk that the age-old sociability of the village — ambient sociability, one might call it — harbors a strange likeness to the social-networking culture we think to be so new.

They don’t do one-on-one conversation here. They broadcast. If you have something to say, yell. Bring water! Go to school! Why did you tell her that thing? The people do not limit their talk to their own homes. Their scolds and praise and commands are for the village.

Privacy means little. Their doors are scraps of fabric. People come and go; it is hard to say who owns which house. Committing adultery or defaulting on a loan would be social suicide: everyone would know. A bargain has been made: There is more to gain from being in the network than from anonymity.

They stand in a stream of soothingly mindless hubbub. They hear opinions even when they do not ask, receive advice they do not need, get a little love from everyone and a lot from no one. Village sociability is not about sharing feelings. It doesn’t dwell on you. It asks for little. It just buzzes.

And what do the Internet’s social networks offer if not this village buzz? You build networks wider than your circle of close friends, and immediately you, too, stand in Hubbub Creek.

One friend “has been caring for an indescribably adorable baby bunny,” your Facebook news bulletin tells you. Another is “leaving for 10 days of backpacking!” Another’s iPhone has survived a “swim.” Once they are in your network, you are compelled, as in the village, to know their business. It’s strangely nice.

This is not about deep bonding. For that, stick to e-mail, the phone and — remember it? — human interaction. Social networks offer only ambient love. They maintain not your 10 key relationships, but your hundred semi-key mini-relationships. They are not about understanding or soul-baring, but about being simply, ambiently present — about knowing as soon as a relationship has ended, as they do in a village, even if you never learn why.

Read the rest of this article here.

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