Facebook revealed their user numbers this week, and the biggest talk of the town is that, according to them, the number of people playing the Facebook game Farmville has exceeded 350 million, and that this is more than the number of people using Twitter.
This is probably true. Facebook games are highly addictive. I’ve got a Mob Wars habit that just won’t quit, no matter how much the makers of the game keep screwing it up.
The problem with this comparison is, when you’re playing one of these games, you aren’t technically socializing. You can send people weapons in Mob Wars, or go to your friend’s restaurant in Cafe World, but you aren’t exchanging ideas or information. You’re not even carrying on a conversation. The only connection to social here is that it’s on a social network.
An aside, this is why I hate Facebook: It’s a bunch of neat tools, but hardly the best way to interact with others. “Social” on Facebook is an afterthought. It’s one of a dozen other things going on there, none of which are done terribly well.
Twitter on the other hand is all social and no filler. In that way it’s a little hard for some to get their heads around, as it doesn’t do any of the work for you. It’s only as useful as you make it.
Which is why people who use APIs or Twitterfeed to create their posts for them are such jerks and not worth following. They want to get some of that Twitter magic to rub off on them, but they don’t want to use it the way it’s supposed to be used: To talk with others.
What this all really says is that the average person doesn’t care about being social. The majority of people don’t care about keeping up on news or events. They simply want to be entertained. I think those of us who work in this industry tend to forget that, as we’re too close to it. We may kid ourselves about the number of people en masse using social networks, but the majority of them don’t use them the way we think they do. They aren’t all out there talking a storm up with each other, or shooting hilarious YouTube videos. They are largely consumers of media, looking to kill some time right now, and will talk to their real friends on the phone afterwards.