Cal Newport on Facebook and Network Effects

Newport says that unlike adding a phone to your life in 1908 would give you something you couldn’t get anywhere else, real time communication with people over distance, social networks provide:

In 2018, joining a network like Facebook enables you to connect with or monitor the status of people you know using digital networks. Unlike telephones or Ethernet cards, however, you don’t need a private network like Facebook for these benefits. Both the Internet and SMS, among other technologies, already provide many different tools, protocols, and services for connecting and disseminating information digitally.

Case in point: I’ve never had a social media account, and yet I constantly enjoy connecting to people, and posting and monitoring information using digital networks.

When I read this section my first thought was convenience which Newport then addressed.

So what then exactly do massive social media platforms like Facebook provide? A more honest answer is that they offer a more convenient experience than the wilder, less centralized social internet, but not something fundamentally unique.

I continually think about quitting all social networks, because of the lack of value they provide. Yes, people find my work through them when I share things, but that traffic is dwarfed by search traffic. Dwarfed by many orders of magnitude.

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