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Monday, May 9, 2011

Facebook's Success

If you're like most people you check Facebook on a daily basis. It is literally a worldwide phenomenon. As of the beginning of the year there were 500 million members worldwide (350 million of them outside of the united states). When it was founded it went viral faster than any other website has ever spread. Within ten days of opening up at Stanford 85% of the population was actively checking their accounts every day. Within ten months there were 1 million users (and that was when only college students could access the site). Today over half of all users log onto Facebook.com daily. The average user spends nearly 24 hours per month on the site. How did this site become so popular so quickly? How has it captivated our attentions so thoroughly that the world has become obsessed with the site? Perhaps a brief lesson on the history of social networking will help us understand why Facebook succeeded while hundreds of other social networks fell by the wayside.

The first true social network, SixDegrees.com, was founded in 1997.  It allowed people to connect to each other in order to figuratively shrink the world, making the degrees of separation contract between individuals. However, it ended after a short run and was never very successful. After its disintegration social networks were largely limited minority groups or special interest unions. In 1999, Livejournal.com, the world's first weblog site was formed and became the first widely successful social network. That was really it for nearly three years, the only option people had was either to participate in special interest groups or write an online diary. However, in 2002 Friendster.com launched and the world saw a shift in social media. The Internet became a place to meet new people, to connect with old friends, and develop romantic relationships. However, Friendster.com became so popular it couldn't keep its servers running long enough for people to truly commit to the site. Myspace.com was founded in 2003 and quickly overtook its competition. Young people everywhere flocked to Myspace because they could personalize their pages (a feature that at first was discovered through a security glitch in the site). It also contained easy to use browse features so that people from all over the world could make connections with others who shared the same interests.

Then, in 2004, thefacebook.com was launched in Harvard. Within a few days the campus was saturated. A few months after that and over 25 campus around the country were actively involved in the website and after the summer over 100 universities, with an ever increasing number of universities. Myspace and Friendster were becoming things of the past. In 2006 Facebook opened its doors to everyone and became one of the most frequented sites online. With all of the growth that it faced, even in its infancy, Facebook never once went down. Its servers never crashed, its lights never once went off. A large part of this was because they could control how and when a new school would be "turned on". So they could set their servers up for the sudden growth. However, there is one reason that it has outlasted all other social networks.

Facebook is not a place to meet people. It was never designed that way. Myspace, Friendster, and even Sixdegrees.com were places to meet people. It was a place to make connections. Facebook is about maintaining friendships. It helps people to maintain friendships that they have offline. You may not know these people well, but you met them in real life. By adding them as a friend on Facebook you are vesting interest in their lives. They're not some imaginary friends that you can forget about just as easily as you found them. No other site has done this as cleanly and as simply. I'm not sure if any other site will.

Since them Facebook has become a place for developing programmers to release their products. It has become a catalyst for real world revolutions; it has become a reference for future employers. In many ways, it has defined our generation.

What has your experience with social media been like?

Here's a video for you. It's just cool.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mediate Gender: Performing New Momism in the Blogosphere (Part 4)

True New Momism: Marriage Confessions

            Katie Brown has been blogging for nearly four years. Her blog covers the span of two children, one major move, and a whole lot of fights between husband and wife. Over the years her site has gained the theme of "Laugh. Fight. Stay Married". She admits,

I’m not a marriage expert. I’m not the best example of motherhood. But I live and learn and then spill my guts about it here in my own little corner of Cyber Land. I may not have all the answers, I may not make all the right decisions, but I’ll share every step of my journey with you so we can learn and grow together (Brown, "Home", 2011).

            Her blog provides the requirement for new momism, "that no woman is truly complete or fulfilled without kids" (Douglas and Michaels, 2004:4). However, it counters the idea that new momism "promulgates standards or perfection that are beyond [mother's] reach" (p. 5).  In a recent post she talked how her relationship with her husband, Chris, has changed since having their second baby. She fully admits that it becomes much harder for relationships to develop and grow with children. There simply isn't the time to cultivate their relationship with their kids. To add to the potential problems, "in the middle of the night when we wake up for feedings and we’re tired and we’re cranky, it’s hard not to take sharp, pointed criticisms personally" (Brown, "Euphoria", 2011). This was pointed out again in a recent experience she blogged about where she discusses an argument she had with her husband in the middle of the night while he was taking care of their daughter Gracie (Brown, "In My Dreams", 2011). However, even with these changes she admits that the good greatly outweighs the bad. More poignantly she states, " If you’re really, really lucky, your life will never be the same" (Katie, "Euphoria", 2011).
            The Browns present readers with a far from an ideal marriage on their blog. They openly discuss fights and arguments online. They've battled with depression and feeling they're loosing their identity through their children. They've had their house broken into, lost their jobs, struggled to find daycares, moved across the country (giving up prominent positions in Connecticut) just to be closer to family. Their son, Michael (referred to as Bean on the site), has developed a more needy attitude since Gracie was born. However, it is clear to see that Katie is fulfilled through her children. She is living the ideal new mom life. She is a professional. She is a mother. She does not shirk any responsibilities in either sphere of her life. However, she makes no attempts to hide her dirty living room while taking pictures. She makes no attempts to pretend her marriage is perfect. She makes no attempts to idealize her problems. She is honest in her representation of herself.


            Motherhood is a complex structure in society. It contains many facets and diverse representations. New momism problematizes many of these facets of motherhood by attempting to pigeonhole motherhood into a June Cleaver model of parenting. While many mommy bloggers chose to directly support or contest new momism there are some mothers that are able to present a different view of it. They provide examples of how motherhood and family relations are both fulfilling and imperfect. They present motherhood as a "radical act" that is powerful because of the imperfections and shortcomings of mothers. These women perform their gender roles imperfectly because gender itself is an imperfect role. Women are pulled from two opposing camps, one which they are told that family and child rearing are the most important role they can perform and the other which states that they need to be strong, independent women. Blogging provides opportunities for women to fulfill both of these roles, which are thrust upon them.

Now that you've read my thoughts what is your experience with Mommy Blogging? Do you think it has any value? Why?