Thursday, June 4, 2009

The New Facebook Family: Reevaluating Social Media

By Adam Tanguay

Over the last few months I have observed an interesting change in the world of Facebook. Where I used to see friends socializing, I now see mothers producing safety-themed wall posts on my friends’ pages. Where I used to see old classmates partying it up, I now see pictures of younger siblings conducting acts better left undocumented. Call it the new Facebook Family.
The evidence of the new Facebook Family is everywhere.

Directly below [above] my friend’s recent post decrying a party-induced headache is his mother’s serene avatar, reminding him politely about the dangers of drinking. Distant cousins who I might not see for years at a time now receive glimpses into my daily life and inquire about personal family matters on a regular basis. It is obvious that there is a new family present in the once esoteric world of social media, and this burgeoning group has drastically altered the core dynamics of our digital space.

As a brash teen with a passion for creative media outlets, I relished my early social media experiences with MySpace, LiveJournal, and Friendster. These digital spaces were exciting because I felt like I belonged to an innovative new web faction separate from popular culture. My grandma didn’t have a MySpace profile and Wal-Mart wasn’t going to post comments on my LiveJournal posts.

But all that has changed. The geeks, hackers, and techies are now shoulder to shoulder with moms and business executives in freshly commercialized social media channels. I even heard Tom Hanks talking about Twitter last night on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. It appears that, as the social media family continues to expand into new domains and infiltrate the general public’s collective conscious, the subculture that spawned it all is destined to quietly slip away into a new corner of the Web.

I believe social media’s move into the mainstream is positive. The amazing benefits of this space are now accessible to everyone. Average Internet users now wield the tools to control their online reputation and identity, empowering average people to explore a world that was once extremely difficult for outsiders to understand.

However, this drastic accessibility shift has also changed the nature of social media. Savvy advertisers and recruiters were successful in early Web 2.0 channels because everything was still relatively “underground” in the eyes of users. Now that your mom Tweets all day long, the edginess early social media marketers once enjoyed has been severely incapacitated.

It is hard to say whether the new Facebook Family has inhibited social media from influencing interactions. However, if our favorite social media sites weaken with an influx of ads, fake-users, and a general loss of DIY spirit, it could signal the death of the industry. I like to remain optimistic. I believe a strong base of users reflecting their true online identities and a spirit of positive interaction will help maintain the integrity of the new family in which we find ourselves.

What do you think? How have you adapted to the new Facebook Family?