Facebook, Myspace, and Ikea
There’s an interesting article on Slate today that compares Facebook to Ikea. The basic idea of the article is this: “a defining idea behind Wikipedia, Facebook, and blogging platforms such as WordPress is that if you give people the right tools, they’ll use them to create wonderful things in collaboration with each other or with the organization that provides the catalyst.”
Like Ikea, Facebook and Wordpress provide the basic framework and enough flexibility to let creative people be creative and voila, everybody’s happy.
I wouldn’t disagree with that, but as somebody who builds websites as part of my real job, I’ve noticed another glaring similarity between Facebook and Ikea: they both offer a clean, contemporary, almost creepily sterile environment.
Anybody who has made the move from Myspace to Facebook has undoubtedly noticed the general sterility of the Facebook environment. It’s a professional place, functional and clean. People mind their manners. They tend to speak when spoken to.
If Facebook is Ikea, Myspace is that part of town that’s not quite gentrified, where you’re likely to rub elbows with the heavily tattooed and scantily clad, where any friendly gesture must be taken with a massive grain of salt. Hey friend, why don’t you come on over here and I’ll show you some pictures from spring break? She is good looking, yes, well, come on over here, friend, and I will introduce you to her friends. For some reason, those italics translate into a Russian accent in my head.
There is none of that on Facebook. On Facebook, there is scrabble and trivia, groups organized by geography and who used to work at Arthur Anderson or the Nature Conservancy. Facebook seems like a place where you might be able to find some reasonably priced bedroom furniture, maybe grab some affordable, acceptable meatballs for lunch. On Myspace, you might be able to find Ghostface Killah or Girls Gone Wild or some kind of shady scheme involving penis enlargement and Nigerian bank accounts.
There’s no doubt that Facebook is a better application. It’s functional. You can actually use it. Like Ikea, it’s predictable, inviting, contemporary without being overpoweringly cool.
But like a gentrified part of town that’s now filled with Macaroni Grills and Chipotles (I’m looking at you, Silver Spring, Maryland), even as more and more of us settle in with our trivia and our scrabble, our nice, solid, acceptable group of friends, we know that it’s not quite as much fun without the freaks and the scammers.
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