Like, it seems, umpteen others, I set up a Facebook profile for myself a couple of weeks ago. When I did, I found that plenty of friends from widely scattered parts of my social network had done the same thing, mostly around the same time. This does seem to me to be a genuine tipping phenomenon. I’ve been feeling a little guilty about not knowing more about Facebook and MySpace, given that I teach classes on how the Internet is changing politics and society. But I didn’t feel ready to actually set myself up, partly because I wasn’t sure what the point was, and partly because I was worried that I’d end up without any friends, exposed to the scorn and pity of the multitude. As my sister Maria said (before joining up herself and finding that she had lots of friends), Facebook is an opportunity to play the social game again – and lose. If other people shared our apprehension, it’s perhaps not surprising that lots of them have decided to join at the same time, when everybody knew that there were enough other people who they knew doing the same thing that the risk of public embarrassment was relatively slight.
Via Rebecca MacKinnon, this post by Mark Glaser has additional speculation on why so many lemmings plunged over the cliff at the same time, and why they plunged into Facebook in particular. I’d be interested to know why CT readers have or haven’t joined Facebook or other social networking type sites; I should also let people know that there is now a Crooked Timber group on Facebook (content currently consisting of a few photos of CTers mugging at the camera; more surely to follow).