Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How hard can it be to make a friend?

My recent efforts to connect with my niece via Facebook have me reflecting on the relative "friendliness" of various social networks. The story with my niece is that for the purposes of professional networking, she has a facebook account that that someone else set up. Since we share no networks and her access to her profile is quite limited, we have been having a lot of trouble figuring out how to become "friends."

Certainly this difficulty has much to do with our relative inexperience with Facebook and if it bothers me enough we will connect on some other channel and then work our way around to finding each other on Facebook. However, this experience has pulled out of my net wanderings, a recent blog article by danah boyd: Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace.

I many ways the article is way too heady for me as was the context that brought me to it--the brouhaha over the Britannica Blog: Web 2.0 Forum. Nonetheless it does make we wonder how much my online affinities are shaped by the friendliness of the technology (I do give up pretty quickly on social software that makes my head hurt) or the "friendliness" of those I find there. that friendliness is defined for me by some basic things like common courtesy and respect, a healthy sense of humor, and patience with my diffidence. But I have begun to think of the "friendliness" of the technology in slightly different terms, wondering if it is not just a technological phenomenon (ease of use, transparency of tools) but also a social one--social in the sense of mirroring the structures, divisions, social classes, etc. of our society. Do I feel more comfortable on Facebook than in MySpace, because it reinforces my own social image? When libraries use social software to create spaces for their users, do their choices of technology re-enforce the social stratifications that are too often evident among library users themselves and the way that we structure library services?

Much like danah, "I don't know where to go with this," but I think I need to have it lurking at the edges of my social software experience and playing a role in how and where I find "friendliness" in social software spaces.