i caved and joined Facebook

I belong to a lot of social networks. This should provide the proper context:


Not too long ago, I dropped out of both Naymz and Plaxo since they were not useful to me (honestly, are they useful to anyone?). The universe didn’t self-destruct, so that proved that these two weren’t essential. And I almost never go to Within3, D.O.C., Classical Lounge and Dilettante Music as none of these are particularly conducive to ongoing communication. Sermo, which is a large medical forum, was of interest to me at one time but over many months I’ve gone from being the fourth-ranked gynecologist on the network to 71st, because I came to the conclusion that Sermo was largely bogus, contained a lot of angry, snarky conservative physicians and only a small number, relatively speaking, of people in my own specialty of gynecology. The time I mentioned my support for universal health care I nearly got lynched online.

Actually, no social network is absolutely essential, but I have to say that I find LinkedIn and Twitter to be very useful. Twitter keeps me in touch with a small group of friends, and it’s unobtrusive and easy to update (I use twhirl on my MacBook Pro and twitterfon on my iPhone). Similarly, LinkedIn, of which I was skeptical at first, keeps me up to date with over 500 professional contacts, colleagues and friends. It’s more formal in some ways, since it is primarily for business networking, but I find it very helpful. Indeed, I was initially recruited for my current position over LinkedIn.

So I wasn’t in need of, nor was I looking for, another social network to join. I’ve received several e-mails from friends asking me to join Facebook, and I always declined. I’ve read a lot about Facebook, and while their COO, who came from Google, is really talented, their CEO and founder has made some moves that didn’t impress me, perhaps due to his youth, and perhaps because some of Facebook’s tactics raised major privacy flags in my mind. Fortunately, most of this has been fixed or adjusted, so I have fewer privacy concerns.

But still, did I need another network?

Probably not, but I took the plunge anyway, in part to see who was on there. It turns out that a lot of people I know are on Facebook. While I found quite a few on MySpace, most of my MySpace friends were folks who were seemingly interested in my music, and that’s why I joined MySpace in the first place: to promote my music. Facebook is better designed than MySpace, but that’s a double-edged sword. I like that the Web pages are clean (note to MySpace: allowing folks to have yellow text on a white background doesn’t help them communicate. Honestly). On the other hand, I can’t tweak the site code at all, so I can’t post a Flash- or javascript-based music player to provide access to my music. 

But overall, it seems reasonably worthwhile so far. Most of my contacts are not work-related, although I admit to going back and forth as to whether or not to post information about what I read, watch on TV, etc. But the few folks I know professionally already either know I have an alter-ego who composes weird music, or else probably don’t care. Personally, I think that when I read a fellow physician’s page and see that he or she has interests outside medicine, that’s a plus in my mind. I’m syncing my twitter feed to it, which means that more people will be reading it other than the small network of friends I communicate with over twitter.

So anyway, in less than 24 hours I’ve racked up over 100 friends and will undoubtedly hear back from many more in the next day at this rate. Whether or not Facebook is really helpful is hard to say, but it will be an interesting thing to watch over time.