Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

The Facebook vs. LinkedIn generation

Summary: Woke up to a great thought provoking op-ed piece in the New York Times that spoke of the Facebook generation or what some may call the millennial generation (Gen Y; if you may), the aging of the Social Graph and it’s probable impact on the original demographic of the social networking site.

Picture Source: Joel Stein’s column for TIME | “You are Not My Friend
Illustration by Francisco Caceres for TIME

While one school of thought contends that some of the incoming work force may gravitate towards Facebook as a business tool, “another school of thought” wonders if the pollution of Facebook’s “social graph” will drive their typical user elsewhere (maybe to the next shiny object). FYI, I’m the Community Evangelist at LinkedIn and have always stated my preference of keeping my social and business network as separate as possible.

From the “other school of thought”, here’s Alice Mathias’ op-ed piece in the New York Times that ponders the inherent nature of a pure-play social networking tool, per se

Facebook did not become popular because it was a functional tool — after all, most college students live in close quarters with the majority of their Facebook friends and have no need for social networking. Instead, we log into the Web site because it’s entertaining to watch a constantly evolving narrative starring the other people in the library.

My 3-point take:

1. My constantly evolving social narrative is about movies, politics, tv, social life, etc… and I know that most of the other folk I work with couldn’t care less about it unless there are some who share some of these interests (and as of today there’s not one colleague who probably does that I know of!). Even in the real world, I think it’s fair to say that most of us are not too open to sharing our social narrative w/ colleagues even in a water cooler discussions. Here’s a snippet from the NYT op-ed piece:

But does this more reverent incarnation of Facebook actually enrich adult relationships? What do these constellations of work colleagues and long-lost friends amount to? An online office mixer? A reunion with that one other guy from your high school who has a Facebook profile? Oh! You get to see pictures of your former college sweetheart’s family! (Only depressing possibilities are coming to mind for some reason.)

Don’t most “adults” have most of these social relationships (family, friends built) and if so why should they turn to a social network to build this network anew?

2. Secondly, my Facebook profile contains my political preferences and sometimes religious preferences and it’s yet again a scary thought as to what your work teams may think when confronted with such hot-button issues that are otherwise buried in your busy daily office routine. How would it impact your relationships with co-workers, colleagues, peers and maybe with your boss?

3. What about the privacy settings one may ask? A couple of weeks back I’d a random individual comment on a photo that I’d uploaded which had me and a friend in it, commenting on her. I immediately took down the picture and cranked up my privacy settings for fear that I’d exposed my friend’s picture to a random stranger. That could happen to anyone. I’d definitely recommend reading this piece by my good friend Dave McClure’s blog about Privacy settings on Facebook (a must-read) and I’ll recommend you doing that on any pure-play social network you’re a part of.

In finality, I’m going to turn to the NYT piece for Alice’s take on privacy:

So even though Facebook offers an elaborate menu of privacy settings, many of my friends admit that the only setting they use is the one that prevents people from seeing that they are Currently Logged In. Perhaps we fear that the Currently Logged In feature advertises to everyone else that we (too!) are Currently Bored, Lustful, Socially Unfulfilled or Generally Avoiding Real Life.

To me Facebook or any other social network is about expressing your personal side, your social side and your fun side, but it’s never going to be cool to share my party pics with my team at work (for obvious reasons). I enjoy the social narrative and on a separate level love to see my professional network updates on LinkedIn, which in my opinion heralded the coming of the mini-feed, which many faithful & typical Facebook users hated at the time of its launch (Just ask Danah Boyd about the “Privacy trainwreck”).

As the community evangelist, I see the LinkedIn generation as being epitomized by “Mavens/Connectors/Salesmen” generation, as defined by “The Tipping Point“. I don’t think we should be letting salesmen into our social lives and I, for one personally, will strive to keep the two separate. I know everyone has their own experience. Feel free to share yours and please describe who you are and what you do for a living. That provides some context to the conversation. (Disclaimer: All these are purely my personal thoughts only)

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Filed under: Facebook, Linkedin