It seems to me that Facebook is a rather amazing little bit of social software. It allows one to find one’s links to others across all kinds of boundaries — having lost touch, having dropped out of contact, having moved to a new place.
However, the biggest limitation for a piece of software like this is that it’s monolingual. That means that many of my friends from Montreal, such as my francophone co-workers, are unlikely to enter into this particular social networking system. Those ex-students with whom I’m still in contact in Korea are also unlikely to do so, since, after all, there’s already an all-Korean version of this.
This means that, since a lot of the people I considered to actually be my friends aren’t in the system, there’s some incentive to “friend” people I didn’t know well, or people I didn’t much like. This has its merits, too, in a way, since I recognize that socially-formed prejudices against individuals were, well, socially-formed. That some of my dislikes and antipathies have more to do with the school-environment we were tossed into than anything about the person himself or herself.
But it also means Facebook is likely to be of limited use to someone like me, someone who has moved around a lot in fringe zones, places where English wasn’t the only language in town. And since a lot of my friends have also lived that way, it means that a lot of my good friends are also like that — and not bothering to enter into the network either.
For what it’s worth, I imagine Facebook is quite an amazing thing for people living in the Anglosphere exclusively. It’s probably likely to explode, so that a generation from now, people will have already been-there done-that, will have gotten past the point where they are so blown away by novelty (as I am) that they pick and choose who they let into their friend network. Our children will probably be a lot smarter about networks like this, I think, than we are likely to be.
And really, even I am enjoying catching up with those people who are so far back in my past that I could never have guessed where they would end up. They’re turning up in the most surprising places! But I’m still waiting for the really killer, worldwide, multilingual app. Sadly, since most people don’t need it, I imagine it’ll have to piggyback on the other networks. I wonder if we’ll ever see that.