Craving intimacy in our social networks

It’s Ironic that Facebook is moving into a more public space occupied by Twitter and FriendFeed.

I think their jealousy of the hype that Twitter is getting might be leading them astray.


I’ve been asking “normal people” what they use. You know, people like my wife and her friends who aren’t tech bloggers and don’t pride themselves on using the latest thing. She is addicted to Facebook and is not interested in the public part of it. She doesn’t get Twitter and FriendFeed although she understands how I use those to talk with a large public audience.

She’s craving intimacy with her friends. She uses Facebook to talk with her childhood friends about the little moments in life that they will find interesting but that she doesn’t want open to a larger public discussion.

She’s not the only one craving that kind of intimacy. I’ve noticed it about myself too. Recently I started a private group for people I liked that I wanted to have a way to discuss things with just them. It never went anywhere, but I noticed that when we have small, intimate discussions that all of us have more fun and learn more.

Living our lives in public often leads to very weird behavior and worrying about what the crowd will think. That doesn’t lead us to a good place often.

I’ve often wished that FriendFeed and Twitter have more private spaces, or ones that have a better combination of public and private areas. The fact that they haven’t worked much on the private spaces (FriendFeed’s private groups are pretty good, but private messages get lost in the noise and there isn’t a good way to notify people that messages are waiting for them and Twitter’s direct messaging features are a total joke, unusable for anything group related and pretty unusable for anything else either). Now that Facebook is spending more effort becoming more public I find myself looking for some other system that provides that intimacy.

This week I’ll explore several, but one I found that is already gaining a devoted group of passionate fans is ThisMoment. They opened up for business last week.

Unlike with other experiments I’ve done on other social networks this one I’m going to keep just for my family and closest friends, but they have put up some interesting examples that are shared with the public. The founder, Vince Broady, put up a page of his Mad Max movie night. You can see here that the “moment” is intimate and the story told with both text and pictures.

Vince formerly ran Gamespot and entertainment at CNET and Yahoo and he — and a team of 11 loyal engineers — are building out this effort. I always look for good teams behind services (that’s why I got so excited by FriendFeed) and that’s one reason I’m excited about thismoment.

Anyway, some other examples. Even brands can use the more intimate approach. Here Road & Track is using thismoment to share moments of beautiful cars with its fans.

Here Stephen Blake recorded his experiences on Obama’s Inauguration Day.

Am I the only one noticing this trend? Is Facebook nuts for being jealous of Twitter and copying FriendFeed? Where do you go online to talk with your close friends? Are you looking for a better way?

33 Replies to “Craving intimacy in our social networks”

  1. I think Facebook is in a position to offer the best of both worlds. The outstanding privacy controls of Facebook allow it to provide the privacy you describe, yet with fine grained control over who sees what, even to the level of individual status updates, it can simultaneously provide a more public, Twitter like experience, which I think it also needs. In short, I don't think Facebook is crazy at all. It's just taking the logical next step, and it can do so while preserving intimacy. Facebook will be king of the hill for a long time to come.

  2. My FaceBook friends include my real friends and people whom I've met and think are good people, some including business contacts. I find myself posting on Facebook links and thoughts that inspired or made me think or laugh, so my posts are meant to be interesting, useful or inspiring in the way that something affected me. Sometimes, it's business. Overall, that's a look into my world, which I Facebook does well, which is a bit more personal but not really intimate. Facebook is like a cocktail party for me, where I can stop and have a little conversation. When my friends and I go deeper, it's usually just one person and then we move to FB Chat, to personal email or GoogleChat and then the phone and text. Intimacy is still over the phone, one on one. It's hard to be socially “intimate” with more than one person at a time, even on social networks.

  3. It sounds like what you want is simply an old school style private forum or message board for just you and your friends.

    I think as the web evolves, we're starting to see trends that go back to what we had in the early 90s.

  4. 2 years ago, i shared this sentiment and created a mailing list/group called ( had some initial discussion threads but it fizzled.

    then in january 2009, i tried again and started a mailing list/group called “Artists in the Cloud” that attracted a great group of people and early discussions were rich and plentiful. though this group as well has fizzled, i think that even sparse usage makes it of value to me and others.

    i also joined last week and will explore it some more when i have time.
    it seems a bit bloated and sluggish though.

  5. Yes, Facbeook is nuts for having Twitter-envy. There's a very good chance that Twitter is a fad. Facebook is both broader and deeper and it behooves them to stay on track. Twitter is a mile wide and an inch deep. Twitter offers very little value to most publishers. And the kids are *not* using Twitter (check quantcast for demo's). It's cute being able rant on a company or having fast access to breaking news but ultimately, the calories are unsatisfying.

  6. As much as it's the social media junkie's dream to have one centralized place where you can pipe all your different lifestreams out to a range of different audiences, in practice I think that over time people will stabilize on 2 to 4 sites that meet their specific needs (privacy, broadcast ability, toolset, niche appeal, or whatever) and jettison the rest.

    Exactly which sites will win is still very open to debate and discovery. Right now it's Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Friendfeed that are the main contenders. They're doing a pretty good job so far, but 18 months from now who knows?

  7. I do think Facebook are a tad nuts to do this whole jealousy thing… it doesn't make sense in the least as there is room for all platforms; Facebook + Twitter + FriendFeed all serve different purposes.

    I like to say I'm an open book, wear my heart on my sleeve. I happily set my Facebook privacy settings to “Everyone” when FB offered that up. However… I had a very interesting experience just the other day with the new FB Publisher: I hadn't realized the scope of all content being accessible for commenting by any Tom, Dick or Harry. And all of a sudden, I got spammy self-promo comments on an imported blog post on the Notes app. Ugh!! It sure made me stop and rethink my “everyone” policy and I'm also re-examining my Facebook friends much like Ed Dale did … I may start using my Fan Page for biz and really trim down the profile for intimate relationships with close peeps.

    Great topic, Robert – thanks for bringing it up.

  8. I agree with Samuel. Facebook is fast enabling you to have the intimacy and public experience on the same platform. With the latest changes you are able to send a Status update to a select group of friends for example. I honestly think that it won’t be long before you will be able to engage a small group of friends and a business community. As Samuel says the existing privacy settings allow you to do that pretty well already.

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  10. I've used livejournal for intimate conversations for ten years. Their locking feature means controlled privacy with a variety of friend groups. All my chosen family are there. I use a disguised username to separate my public net identity from my private one.

  11. I mostly agree with Samuel here. Facebook will be king of the hill, but I also think Fb are making a mistake by (seemingly) hiding and obfuscating the privacy controls and friends lists.

    Sure the privacy controls are fine grained, but how many people actually find them or know of their importance or even existence? Same thing with friends lists, at least in the sense that very many don't use them at all (because of the worry that so-and-so will notice that they are visiting a limtied profile and obviously being blocked from certain content such as all photos or the wall)

    The failure of friend lists and privacy control has resulted in a majority of FB users having to screen everything they share with a certain business colleague, unfriendly person, stepmom or distant relative in mind.

    To solve this, privacy controls & friend lists need to come in just at the time of sharing, and not just obviously block categories of content on a profile page. This is more or less possible today, but the ease-of-use and transparency is just not there for regular users.

    Maybe event-based services like Thismoment will grab this chance to solve the problem for users by way of Facebook connect. But right now, I can only speculate as to whether it is against Facebook's vision for users to actually fine-tune who they want to share it with. Why else is “share with network” the default option in most features, for example?

  12. I do not crave intimacy from my social networks, only honesty and transparency. That is why I like Facebook so much, because people are who they say they are. Twitter would do good to do more to copy Facebook in this respect. Twitter is at odds with itself because when you sign up for an account it encourages you to use your real picture and name, and then they show you the suggested users list which has a cat on it. Facebook is smart for copying friendfeed as ff is ahead of the development curve. I also doubt if Facebook is jealous of Twitter, but it would be a great question to ask @finkd.

  13. I actually think Facebook may be a little of in going towards the public facing element. Mainly because once a network goes public and it turns into followers and subscribers then the pursuit of popularity takes over. What I've always like about Facebook is that it wasn't about how many friends I had, but more were they my actual friends – a focus on better relationships not just more of them. Popularity is a great way to grow a network, but I personally am just looking for the environments that can produce the healthiest relationships, and longer standing community.

  14. Yes, Facebook is nuts. They've got shiny object syndrome and are losing focus on their differentiator – the intimacy. I have a completely different group of people I follow and who follow me on Twitter than I do on Facebook – that means different conversations, different interests…the two [should] have different values and shouldn't try to compete. Just like Linked-in is different from Facebook and Twitter – even though it too has status feeds and groups. I like being part of multiple networks all with different purposes or audiences – we're complex and have different interests…it's almost like the big box stores taking out the mom and pops…one-stop-shopping seemed like a good idea at the time, but now we're seeing the reinvention of small and local because we lost what was special, unique and interesting by trying to be all things to all people.

  15. Found you through Backtype.

    Just open a new facebook and connect with your personal friends there. Then you can slowly merge your Fan page and your now old facebook.

    Just a thought.

  16. Interesting comment. It seems that this is more of an issue as these things become more “global.” The internet is a vastly different place than even two years ago. Then something public, didn't go viral. The only thing to do, even though it means more work is to have more accounts. One personal and one public. Just like people used to do with telephones. One for work and One for home. The problem is we have too many businesses to manage..

  17. Ya – interesting suggestion. However, Facebook's TOS stipulate only one account per user and so setting up a second personal profile would be a violation of their terms. I'm cool with trimming back and tweaking my privacy settings. 😉

  18. I completely agree with you that privacy has been of the fundamental keys to Facebook's success. On occasion they seem to slip and lose track of this and the crowd pushes back. In “Tribes” Seth Godin talks about the need to be exclusive to a certain extent. I believe the exclusive heritage and nature of Facebook are what make it appealing. Perhaps they should read Tribes and reinforce this concept?

  19. I enjoy Facebook because of the privacy controls and the fact that I only have my actual friends there. Twitter was fun at first, but there are so many marketers and porn following me that I quickly grew tired of it after 100 followers.

  20. Jaiku used to be my place for more intimate conversations before the age of Google. That system has a lovely balance between privacy and allowing friends of friends to listen in if the conversation naturally grows more public. It's got “soft walls” that let some conversation through to some beyond your inner inner circle, but not all of it to everyone.

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