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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  2. Mike from Facebook

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to list, we would like to inform you on our new College Network Place…

    The College Networking Cafe is designed to give a social networking utility that connects college students with other college students from around the world!

    Students can use the college networking cafe to keep up with college friends, news, upload photos, share links and videos, you can also become affilates to help build your own community and just learn more about their fellow classmates.

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  4. Amaury


    In addition to my comment from yesterday … I have found the “Resume” application that (crudely) imports Linkedin resumes into a Facebook profile.

    Amaury de Buchet

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  6. Mario Sundar

    That echoes my usage as well, Jared.

  7. Jared

    Personally I use both Linked In and Facebook, I use Facebook for my friends and family and Linked in for my business contacts, I like this and find that it works best for me.

  8. Mario Sundar

    I’m not quite sure about having duplicate profiles on sites, Mark. It just seems a tad disingenuous to me and ditto for connecting w/ HR or salesmen on FB connecting w/ prospects…

    I did take a look at the post you linked to and these are my thoughts:

    * “And while the zombie application might be nothing but annoying, six months from now when a new application for a shared calendar is developed that allows small companies to not only share appointments but perhaps share spreadsheets, files, PowerPoint presentations etc.,”

    There have been tons of MS Office kind of apps on FB for a while (e.g. Zoho) but the only traction they’ve gotten thus far is minimal (Zoho for e.g. has 49 engaged users vs. 2.5 million for Top Friends)

    Just my $.02. Thanks for your comment, Mark.

  9. Mark Blei

    I understand your hesitancy to have a profile that features personal information on your religious preferences and friends.

    I once saw an interview with Tom the founder of Myspace. When asked how many friends he has on Myspace he replied “Somewhere in the area of seven million” when asked how many friends he has on his real Myspace page he replied “Five”

    Like Tom and several other celebrities I know, as far as Facebook is concerned I have two profiles. One that would show up using my name as it is known to the public and that page has nothing about religion , politics , preferences or my personal life and does not participate in turning people into Zombies or sending out virtual drinks or any such nonsense.

    Personal friend’s of mine who wanted to connect with me on Facebook and post pictures and whatnot were directed to another profile with a variation of my name . I’m open on my professional facebook profile to connect with anyone who wishes to engage in networking with me.

    My personal profile is guarded heavily and you wouldn’t be able to find it unless you knew some very specific information about me, including my personal email , which I’ve made sure never got associated with any networking tool. I think you can have both and I think that facebook may in the future morph into a very important tool. I agree their not there now. But I wrote about the possibilities here http://dlmediaroundup.blogspot.com/2007/08/is-facebook-taking-over-world-part-two.html

    What do you think?


  10. Mario Sundar

    Thanks, J.

    As for your question? IMHO, I think for the vast majority of professionals in a 9-to-5 job, the worlds are not necessarily colliding.

    In my experience, apart from a few good friends like yourself, Damon, Anand (interestingly all community evangelists) all of whom I don’t technically work with, I think my work and personal lives are still separate. Just my $.02.

  11. Jeremiah Owyang

    Excellent points Mario.

    Has society changed too? Are our work and personal lives colliding in real life, thus reflecting it online?

    It will be interesting to see the applications that are developed on the LinkedIn plattform, something tells me that super poke won’t be as popular.

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