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Thanks to an example given in Joshua Porter’s extraordinary Design for the Social Web, I’ve had it brought to my attention that I’m misusing Facebook.

Personally I find that to be an incredible conclusion. Me using a personal service – one which I’ve added an individual touch to and describe my personality with – wrongly? The internet consumer within me is raising the metaphorical finger at such an idea, but it’s right. I’ve felt that too, as for a long time it’s felt like I was using Facebook “just because”.

It took me a long time to cave in and begin using this social networking toybox. My resistance was part rebellion against peer pressure, and part honesty – I didn’t feel a need to. Of course, once I delved in there I became addicted, and since then I’ve found a lot of other fun services to use through Facebook, such as LivingSocial. It’s since come to define my rejuvenated online presence, too. It’s Facebook’s communication methods which define the time I spend just being myself on the internet, as opposed to being a student researcher, fanboy or an entirely different, second persona.

Still, I was aware that my adopting Facebook felt a bit like it ‘shoehorning’. I’ve kept up with friends in my hometown in ways I never managed to before, I’ve shared the occasional interesting link or item of web media and had comments back from that, and of course have been part of the same process as in reverse, browsing whatever it is that my friends share. What’s been missing though, is its networks.

For months this has baffled me. When I signed on to Facebook I was asked to select my network, and because I knwit to be a university-focused application, I was not surprised to be able to select mine and carry on with filling my profile out. Since that day I have never made use of the network. If the Harvard folks behind Facebook knew this, they’d see me as a design blasphemist.

A facebook is actually an extraordinarily useful-sounding book on physical media, handed out to new students at Harvard. In it is a collection of all that year’s new arrivals and brief biographies so that everyone can find out about all their new peers relatively quickly. Given that it’s taken me three years to discover some really good friends, even within my single degree course, I’m suddenly struck with a wish that I had one of these when I started.

… and that‘s why I’m misusing Facebook. This social network has been designed to allow folks to meet new people and to share enough about them so that they might one day meet on campus and strike up a conversation. Have I done this? No. In fact, I created a profile when I was on my suspended year away from campus, and elected to hide my profile page from anyone, including those in the same uni. network as myself. This has turned out to be a missed opportunity, though I’m not sure if blame lies with myself or Facebook’s developers.