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dimanche 8 novembre 2009

Why I am not a member of Face Book or other Social Networks

Electronic Communications and social Networking

Internet has been a great blessing for travelers. Since 2002, my world has rotated around Cuba, Miami, Los Indios, Paris 2006, KL 2008, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. The easiest way to communicate has been through e-mail, even though I still practice the old fashioned letter writing.

Telephone communications with Cuba and Myanmar is not easy and along with Vietnam is expensive to boot. (It costs more than one dollar per minute to call Cuba and the connection is not guaranteed)...

So, you might have thought I would have joined some form of Social Network group so that it would be easier to keep in touch. But I do keep in touch, what I do not do, is that I do not advertise myself!

Hardly a day goes by without someone or other inviting me to join this or that social networking group where they promise a whole heap of benefits. As it is I am a bit short on time, trying to communicate with my close friends who live in the above countries. Since Internet is not generally available in Cuba and many of the sites are banned in Myanmar, the best way to communicate is through email to them or old fashioned letters would do, even though they might take longer.

So what about the popular social networking sites? What is the story behind them? Do people have 500 friends as they claim? Truly, how many people do they keep in touch with?

I like to keep in touch with my good friends in Cuba, so at least five of them write to me regularly; from the USA, I can think of three people who write regularly and at least ten others who keep in touch. From Asia, I have at least two who keep in touch regularly and about five who keep in touch. So I can honestly say I write to 10 of my friends on a daily basis through email and about ten others on an irregular basis but I am in touch with them.

There is something called a Dunbar number, named after Dr Dunbar, an anthropologist at Oxford University, who suggested that the size of the human brain allows stable networks of about 148. Rounded to 150, this is what is known as the “Dunbar Number”.

Dr Cameron Marlow, the “in house Sociologist” at the Face Book, found that the average number of “friends” in a Face book network is 120, consistent with Dr Dunbar’s hypothesis, and that women tend to have somewhat more than men.

Crunching the numbers further, what Dr Marlow found was that regardless of the number of “friends” you may have on your list, the number you frequently interact is remarkably stable and SMALL. An average man with “friends” numbering 120 generally responds to the postings of about seven by leaving comments on the posting individual’s photos, status messages or “wall”. An average woman is slightly more sociable at 10.

In the non social network world, which is email oriented, a man may keep in touch with four friends and women with six.

Even those with 500 “friends” on Face book has only about 17 friends for men and 26 for women. That is what the sociologist found…So the core friendships remain the same, regardless of the mode of the communications used. I am not doing badly, being in daily contact with ten of my friends! Even though I don’t belong to any social network.

So the social networking are not so much about “networking” but much more about “broadcasting their lives to an outer tier of acquaintances who are not necessarily inside the Dunbar Circle. Internet has made efficient advertising of ourselves but the circle of intimacy remains the same.

When people ask me why I have not joined any social networks, I chuckle thinking about what Groucho Marx once said: I wouldn’t want to be a member of the club that would accept me as a member!

So, please do not send me any invitation to join any clubs, but I would gladly answer your email and better still send me a postcard to Miami or Paris or Los Indios! it takes a month for a letter to reach Cuba!