03 February 2009

Facebook value?

So I've heard all the talk about Facebook and I've thought that it's just a thing that college kids use to keep their social lives squared away. But recently a former Soldier that I worked with sent me an e-mail requesting I join FB (I'm now hip enough to refer to it like that!) so he could update me on his family through pics, etc. A day or so later I read the Christian Science Monitor article about senior officers using new media to better communicate with their subordinates and the public, and ADM Stavridis (Cdr of USSOUTHCOM) was quoted about how he uses FB to kick around ideas. "So", I thought after blogging about these senior officers, "one of the most senior officers in our military is hip enough to be on Facebook ... then so am I!" And thus began my journey into one more of these new media creations.

So far, I've reconnected with about half my HS class (admittedly a small class, but still), caught up with a couple of college friends, and become "friends" with ADM Stavridis (I'm still trying to process what exactly that means).

Aside from being able to see photos of folks I've not seen in 15 years or so, finding out what they're "doing right now", and posting pictures of my kids to show how great they are, I'm not completely convinced of the value to military communication. I imagine it's a great tool for keeping up to date with family and friends when deployed, or for setting up plans for Friday night, but it doesn't seem to be well-equipped for having continuing, engaging dialogue.

What do you think? If you are on FB, do you see value from a professional point of view? Or is it mainly a social networking thing? Maybe I'll create a poll to inquire about this in the future, but for now leave some comments to let me know what I may be missing.


  1. You raise some excellent questions regarding the utility of Facebook, and of social networking sites in general. Another site that is growing exponentially is LinkedIn, which is more of professional networking tool.

    In their January 26th issue, Federal Computer Week did a full cover story and related articles on government agencies' use of Web 2.0 tools.

    Those articles covered telecommuting, the use of wikis for internal & external collaboration and the use of blogs & social networking tools for brand management (aka "strategic communication" in military lingo).

    As I see it, one of the problems with Facebook is there's no differentiation available between contacts. Everyone is a "friend" - family members, co-workers, close friends, casual acquaintances and someone you exchanged an email with once are all in the same category.

  2. Thanks for your comments, subbob. I agree with the problem you mention about having "friends" on Facebook. A friend and I have been joking about that quite a bit lately - "so, how many friends do you have now, Jake?" "I'm friends with an Admiral, so how many more do I need?".

    Another problem with Facebook concerns conversations - it's just not too good of a site for that (at least that I've found so far). If you want to have a dialogue about an issue rather than just a few sentences back and forth, then a blog is a better place for that.

    Or maybe a wiki? I have no experience with those except wikipedia but one of the articles in the FCW link in your comment discusses the wikis that various government agencies have created to facilitate the sharing of ideas and experiences within their organization.

    I haven't been on LinkedIn for a few years, but isn't it more for just maintaining or creating professional contacts? Does it have capability for dialogue or sharing ideas/concepts? Maybe I should check it out again...