The recent outcry about feeds being added to Facebook is pretty interesting.
I find it strange that so many Facebook users are okay with the social networking that Facebook affords them, but the syndication of their profiles somehow crosses an uncomfortable line. As far as I can tell, Facebook only populates your News Feeds with items from people within your social network. On each profile page, you can access a “mini-feed” but there’s nothing contained in it that isn’t part of the profile itself. There is no RSS-out (as far as I can tell); the “feeds” are just an additionanl communication channel for the existing networks.
I suspect that there’s something about seeing the “news” of their changing profile in serialized form that makes people uncomfortable. Casual monitoring of someone’s entire profile to see what’s new and what’s changed seems okay; constant monitoring of itemized changes to the profile seems gossipy–and even creepy.
Ultimately, from a content perspective, the difference is purely perceptual.
On a related note, I feel like I’ve been involved in other conversations lately with people who can understand the value of, say, a blog, but are uncomfortable with any actual exposure. They want to know how they can blog without anyone seeing what they’re doing. Facebook users want to figure out how they can participate in a social network without actual confronting the fact that by doing so they are exposing themselves, with or without feeds.
Exposure is uncomfortable, and any exposure we make of ourselves should be done so with full understanding of what we’re exposing and why (I’m not sure every Facebook user is very thoughtful about this point). But, when used appropriately, it’s this willingness to expose our lives, our work, and ourselves that powers social networking.