I came across this slideshow presentation after reading a blog post, and I was really awestruck at all the amazing information provided. Paul Adams is design strategist, and currently a UX Researcher for Google. This slideshow addresses the main problem with social networking sites today, which is how many of them lump all of the people you connect with into one gigantic group called “Friends.” This sort of logic does not apply to offline social interactions and relationships AT ALL. People normally socialize in multiple, small groups, not one huge mass of everybody that they know at once.
UPDATE (12/19/10): Facebook’s latest release of its “Groups” app is proof that social networks are taking steps towards making your virtual social networks more similar to your real social networks.
People have many groups of friends, and act differently when around each of these groups. They talk about things that are interesting among the group. I mean think about it … do you act and speak the same way in front of your family as you do in front of your fraternity brothers? Or around co-workers? Yet, you are probably friends with most of these people on Facebook, and you post status updates that get blasted out to everybody in these groups. Some people actually get fired because of the status updates that they post to their online social networking websites, not realizing that they had been connected with their employers on the website and those inappropriate messages landed directly in their feed.
Also, Paul raises a very interesting point, stating that online, all kinds of people can influence your decision-making process, essentially making your decisions for you. Here is a very interesting tidbit that he mentioned in the slideshow:
Researcher Duncan Watts found that when choosing new music, knowing what music other people listened to was far more influential than whether the music was of high quality. He found that the music people downloaded was the music that other people had downloaded before them.
He also writes about the phenomenon of humans only being able to keep track of 150 relationships at any given time, which is worth the read by itself. If you have some free time, definitely read this thoroughly! Although the target audience for this powerpoint was web designers, it has some awesome food for thought for those of us in the music industry.