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Is social networking really social NOT-working?

Is social networking really social NOT-working? Joe Nguyen

Logging into Facebook today, there are numerous invites and requests waiting for me: four friend requests, three group requests, two event invitations, two poker challenge requests, one adopt a 3D puppy request, and numerous invitations from werewolves, vampires, slayers and zombies. 

LinkedIn also sends me requests via email a few times a week and if I log on, I get updates of what people have been doing on their profiles. YouTube chases me with videos that I should watch. Once a week, I get a message from Twitter that someone is now following me there -- even though I have not "twittered" in months.

So when does "social networking" become "social, and NOT working"? There are hundreds of thousands of things one can do on these social networks. But the thing is that many people are doing them during office hours! This is not your normal Dilbert cubicle farm employee either; it is senior people in major companies "poking", "superpoking", "writing" and "slaying" other people during the working day.

The "normal" social network user
As a user, we like the social networks. Many of us have had a profile on LinkedIn for years and some of us have been updating every now and then -- especially when we are looking for a career change. We have made contacts with ex-colleagues and other industry professionals who are in our "network". LinkedIn is useful for business professionals and it is there when you want to use it, but most of the time you just forget about it.

Most people join Facebook after much virtual prodding. People who were offline friends became online friends. Friends who were lost were now found. Acquaintances from years ago are now Facebook "friends". When you get on Facebook, you get bombarded with news about your "friends" and what they are doing. It is truly social.

The "avid" social network user
However, then we start seeing people "attacking" other people, commenting on their pages, and writing on each others' walls. We get "Texas Hold'em Poker" invites as well as invitations for "zombies", "vampires", "werewolves" and "slayers". We get things about "Friends for sale", "Are YOU interested?", and "find out what city you should live in". We see groups for university alumni, groups for ex-employees of so-and-so company, and even groups for "I know someone that should be hit by a bus".

Do these attackers and inviters have work to do? Are they as swamped with work as we are? All this socializing must come at a cost to productivity, though some claim that this is in place of the "water cooler" conversations. Well, the news has been reporting so:

BBC: Facebook 'costs businesses dear'
INC.com: Pulling the Plug on Facebook
Sydney Morning Herald: Facebook labelled a $5b waste of time
Timesonline: Is social networking a waste of time?

To all my Facebook "friends" out there, I am not trying to "un-Friend" you. I am just confounded. Don't "remove" me as "friend". If you do, I will have to add you to the list "I know someone who should be hit by a bus".

Drop social networks?
Will I drop Facebook? Heck no. Within the last week, I found out that my cousin from France just moved to Kuala Lumpur and that a 15-year-old picture of me was uploaded and tagged by an ex-teammate from my university cheerleading squad -- a picture which I never had!

Joe Nguyen is the regional manager of South East Asia for Omniture.

Joe Nguyen is the Vice President, South East Asia at comScore, Inc., responsible for comScore products and services throughout the Southeast Asia region as well as overseeing India, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. comScore reports on...

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