The reading this week, a talk by Danah Boyd, brought out several good questions about the online social interactions in facebook and myspace. Unfortunately, the website hosting the other articles was down as of this writing.
The question to answer, refering to an article that I came across a while ago, is: "Is Facebook around primarily to help maintain relationships?"
In December 2010, a Facebook intern put together a stunning diagram of the interactions between people around the world using Facebook. This diagram is stunning, in that it shows, without a doubt, that Facebook is supporting connections between people from all over the world. Here is a link:
According to the reading, early adopters matter. Looking at the formation of Facebook, the Social Networking Service reached out to create connections between people at a college, then many colleges, and finally the world. The initial connections made by the college students that were early adopters to Facebook were geographically close, so how did Facebook get so many multi-national connections?
I would suggest that Facebook closes the structural, cultural, and distance based divides that have prevented multi-national friendships to date. The reading says: "when people are structurally divided, they do not share space with one another and they do not communicate with one another." In the case of Facebook, people can reach out across these bounds, in the comfort of their homes and computers.
Why is Facebook around? The legal definition, to make money. Plain and simple. The culture, on the other hand, would say that Facebook is used as a connection to find, and primarily maintain friend relationships through the many differences.