Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd has a new book coming out called, “It’s Complicated,” that looks at teens and social networking.
Boyd describes herself as “an academic and a scholar and my research examines social media, youth practices, tensions between public and private, social network sites, and other intersections between technology and society.”
She did an interview with Ellis Hamburger at The Verge about the subject, and her comments on Facebook were interesting.
In short, she says Facebook’s success was unusual, since we don’t normally go one place for everything in life. She doesn’t think Facebook is going to die, but she thinks people have no passion for it anymore.
“The era of Facebook is an anomaly. The idea of everybody going to one site is just weird,” says Boyd. “Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space. Fragmentation is a more natural state of being.”
This is why we’re seeing teens using multiple applications.
She says that one girl she talked to says she uses Twitter just for news and chatter on the band One Direction. She uses Instagram for sharing photos with her friends. On Tumblr she shares interesting projects.
“In the Facebook era, you have to balance all these audiences simultaneously,” says Boyd, “You’re saying, ‘Are you going to get angry with me because I posted about One Direction? Are you going to think I’m lame because I’m posting this maker stuff?'”
She adds, “And I think that’s a lot of the reason why when you start to fragment your audience, you start to think about what you’re looking for, you’ll go to different spaces, and it parallels what we do as adults. You go to different bars when you’re in the mood for different things. You see different people when you want to go listen to music or when you just want to have a quiet drink with a couple of friends.”
This is why Facebook has started to buy the companies that create different environments like Instagram and WhatsApp.
Boyd cautions that people aren’t quitting Facebook. Instead, she says people have no passion for Facebook anymore. She compares it to email:
I don’t think people are quitting Facebook. There’s quitting Facebook and there’s just not making it the heart and center of your passion play. I’m of an era where I grew up and the notion that “You’ve Got Mail” was exciting. Everything about email — we would race home after school and be like, “What’s on email” and this is great. It was like little gifts from the heavens. My relationship to email is not like that these days. That doesn’t mean that I’ve left email, but it’s not a place of passion, even when awesome things like a birth announcement come in. That’s awesome, but that doesn’t make me love email. That makes me love my friend who just had a baby.
The weird thing about Facebook and the dynamics of it becoming a utility — which [teens] really despise — is the fact that it becomes this backdrop. It’s not the place of passion. It’s really valuable when you want to reach everybody, it’s really valuable when you don’t have somebody’s cell to text them, it’s really valuable when you need to contact somebody in a more formalistic structure.