Why is Facebook so Popular?

I’m becoming a believer in this “Facebook phenomenon.” Only recently has Outskirts Press actively engaged the “social community” in terms of Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, YouTube, and the rest. Even though it sounds like I’m mindlessly jumping on the bandwagon when I say this, I’ll say it anyway: It has shown immediate dividends.

Sure, we’ve been “blogging” for a number of years; but to successfully engage the promise of “Web 2.0,” companies need to embrace the multiple platforms and entertwine them.

Yes, we as a company have a long way to go on all those platforms. It’s an on-going exercise that requires quite a lot of effort, actually. For example, thanks to our Kindle giveaway in December and our Facebook Anthology project in January, we are seeing large increases to our Facebook Community, and we will continue to offer our community more promotions and incentives to become involved. It is wonderful that these people are all supportive of each other and positive in general. 

And perhaps that is one of the main reasons Facebook is so popular.  People there are nice and respectful.  Isn’t that a refreshing change of pace from other “locales” on the internet where anonymity allows people to be rude, spiteful, argumentative, and sometimes downright jerks? Amazingly even those who aren’t anonymous often choose to show their true colors daily, a la Russell Hantz on the TV show Survivor.  Every comment to a Yahoo article ridicules something; many bloggers seem to believe the only opinion they’re allowed to have is a negative one; and forums are filled with such pervasive confrontation they’ve actually coined a term for it: flame war.

And yet on Facebook, people are supportive of one another, kind, giving of their time and knowledge, and respectful.   This never became more obvious to me than it did a few days ago on my birthday (January 19th).  Current friends, old high school and college friends, relatives, Outskirts associates, and Outskirts authors all took a moment to wish me “Happy Birthday” on Facebook.  So did my wife, since I was on a business trip that day.

Why is Facebook popular? Because Facebook makes people feel good. It makes them feel liked, popular, and as if they are a part of something bigger than themselves. 

This doesn’t seem to be a happy accident, either. Facebook appears to have been designed with that specific purpose. Unlike other “voting” mechanisms on other sites (“thumbs up vs thumbs down” on many sites or the 1 star thru 5 star rating on Amazon, for example), Facebook only has a “Like” option.   It doesn’t give you the opportunity to dislike something or to be mean, even if that is your intent.   The “meanest” thing you can do is NOT vote .  And that’s probably not very satisfying for mean people. As a result, they don’t get involved.  Facebook stays a happy place while the rest of the Internet continues to revel in its own misery. Win-win.

 It just so happens I’ll be talking more about Facebook and other social networking opportunities for writers the day after tomorrow at the Writer’s Digest Conference in Manhattan.  But I thought I’d give another sneak peek here first. And I’ll be discussing more about Facebook in upcoming posts, too.