Saturday, December 08, 2007

Facebook's Virtual Economy

Facebook has cashed in majorly on the fascination of ' virtual expressions'. Facebook's economy revolves around ideas, around a virtual feel and it is happily cashing up its way to the bank.

The 'thought' is enough, whether you simply wish to give your friend a flower, a cake, a hug or so on. It's cool, no doubt. On the face of it, the idea of sending a bunch of carnations sounds really sweet. And a chocolate fountain? O simply yummie... But somehow, after using facebook functions a lot more than when I signed in (I found facebook too cluttered and could make no sense of the entire fuss), I feel that virtual booms on the lines of facebook are simply trivialising the whole exercise and sancity of human thought, expressions and gift giving.

I mean, how frequently, in real life, do I buy a bunch worth 100/- for a friend? On rare ocassions when she breaks her leg, or when I am extremely happy to share some good news with her/him, or for myself when I suddenly screech my bike by a rash brake at an impluse, (or halt my husband's car) to buy a bunch of red roses (blood red yet cheap) from a roadside stall. Show of emotions, at least in our real life, is not as extravagant as it is on the e-community. Is the virtual world thriving on and building up a fake 'emotional extravaganza'?

Facebook cleverly entangles you to 'sign up' one application after the other just to be able to reciprocrate gestures of your friends. Nothing is 'free'.

So how is the process of sending a 'hug' or a 'smile' or a 'booze mail' on facebook? You can't hug (or recieve someone's hug!) if you dont have Application 'A', you can't flirt (or let someone flirt) if you don't have Application 'B', you cant send pastries (or recieve pastries) if you dont have Application 'C' and so on and on. It's a fantastic labyrinth of virtual emotions that facebook is cashing on.

A typical message from facebook would go like this:

'Aby's Baby sent a request using Smiles
Aby's Baby wants to smile at you!
Smile back!'

Now, this seemingly inncoent 'Smile Back' (or just about anything 'back') is a major catch. This link leads you to an 'application' which u need to 'log-in' and which can 'access your information'. How intelligent. Being a commonplace user that you or me are, we happily 'log-in' and keep adding one virtual emotion after the other on our homepage.

Here's something to chew on:

Facebook red-faced, apologises for tracking users

or Read this...

I don't quite understand the economic gains of getting users to 'log-in' one application after other, and the pre-condition of allowing the application to access my information* but I am sure, it might run into a hefty monetary gain in some way or the other. It's another very powerful form of disguised marketing, which I, at the moment, can nor fathom its intricasies, neither can I point out any major harms arising out of it. Period. In near future, however, we might learn a lot more about how we might be used as guinea pigs in the so-called world of 'social networking'.

-Gauri Gharpure

*What information does Facebook access, exactly? Ah! You'll give me that smug answer: 'It's mentioned in the Privacy Policy', right? Smart of facebook, dumb of me and you not to have read it...