Have you logged on to Facebook recently? If you’re like me and you pop in a few times every day, you’ll have noticed that the site has changed in a bit of a strange way. Instead of the usual status bar with a prompt for you to make an update, we’re now getting greeted with a cheery and personal remark that would be more suited to your best mate than a computer screen.
Over the past few days I’ve been asked how I am, how I’m feeling, what I’m up to, and what’s happening. I’m getting more conversation from Facebook than I am from my family.
It’s not just Facebook that’s making things personal.
If I’m downloading some software or a web page now, and something goes wrong, I’m likely to be faced with a cheery comment like “Oops! We’re having a bit of a glitch!” rather than the traditional bland, faceless error messages or the dreaded 404 screen. There’s something about this subtle shift in communication that can be unsettling.
While I know full well that all of this friendliness is simply stemming from a cheeky line of code from a programmer somewhere, it does actually make me respond differently to my computer.
The first sign of madness is when you start talking back…
Anyone who’s worked at home for a while running an online business will be familiar with some of the quirks we pick up along the way. These could include patting your computer when you shut it down for the night, swearing and threatening Microsoft applications when they seize up, crash or destroy the document you’ve sweated over for the past three hours, and pleading gently with your PC when it looks as if it about to go in to meltdown for no reason.
These are all natural ways of responding to an interface that we interact with so much.
Just as people give their cars names, lovingly polishing them, or talk to plants to make them thrive, so we bloggers sometimes develop odd relationships with our tools.
I like to think I’m pretty sane and balanced, but I still find myself responding with a barbed comment when Facebook enquires after my health or greets me with a cheery remark when I log in, in the morning.
The power of our online communities
It makes me wonder what the future of social networking is going to be.
Right now, we can spend a full day in our home offices chatting away to people globally through Skype, e-mailing, messaging and commenting to the extent that if feels as if we have spent a busy day out in a networking meeting catching up with all of our contacts. We don’t need to do more than switch a button to be thrown headlong in to a whole virtual world of socialising.
With the advent of avatars, online automated chat responders and virtual reality gaming, we could one day get to the point where we are spending our entire time chatting away to inanimate objects and lines of code, yet still feel emotionally satisfied with our interactions.
Turning our backs on scripted socialising
Facebook’s new friendliness and familiarity has spurred me on to an act of rebellion this week.
I’m going to get out and network face to face with real people to talk about my business, and generate customers the traditional way as well as online.
That way, when I get asked how I’m feeling, or what I’m up to, I’ll be able to look at a real person and give a genuine answer, and be pretty certain that I’ll get a genuine response.
As online workers, we need to remember the importance of face to face networking with real people, before we get sucked in to the virtual world of pleasantries that social sites are creating for us.
I like to think that no matter how powerful and persuasive online networking can become, it will never be a substitute for shaking someone’s hand and letting them meet you in the flesh.
What’s your view?
Do you like Facebook’s new greetings?
Do you meet your customers face to face?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below?