The Social Graph is Neither, an essay by Maciej Ceglowski on the Pinboard Blog lays out eloquently many of the thoughts about current Internet trends that I’ve intuitively felt for a long time but have never been able to express; the essay deserves to be read in its entirety, but in you want to skip ahead to the punchline, for me it is this:
Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway, or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook.
Because their collection methods are kind of primitive, these sites have to coax you into doing as much of your social interaction as possible while logged in, so they can see it. It’s as if an ad agency built a nationwide chain of pubs and night clubs in the hopes that people would spend all their time there, rigging the place with microphones and cameras to keep abreast of the latest trends (and staffing it, of course, with that Mormon bartender).
There much more in the essay, including a cogent argument for, as the title says, “the social graph is neither.” Go read it.