Can Facebook really “connect?”

Reading David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect has piqued my interest in the service (which I do not use) so I’m unconsciously on the lookout for anything FB related. Like this post (at Mashable) by Ori Brafman, the co-author of Click: The Magic of Instant Connections. An excerpt:

“Social psychologists have found that the distance separating people greatly influences the likelihood of a connection. Think back to your friends in school. How many of them had a last name that began with a letter close to yours on the alphabet? That’s because teachers routinely assign seats alphabetically based on last name. The closer you sat to someone, the more likely you were to hit it off. When a researcher asked police cadets to name their friends from the academy, ninety percent of them named someone who sat adjacent to them. Likewise, scientists proved more likely to collaborate with other scientists who sat in the same corridor.”

“Facebook used to be an intimate community that only included your college buddies. Now, the company is starting to be perceived as Big Brother-like. If we write on someone’s wall, who else will see it? If we comment on someone’s status, whose newsfeed will it show up in? Sometimes it’s as if Facebook is a hidden microphone that threatens to expose what we’d really like to say. Without that ability to be vulnerable, it is difficult to really connect with friends.”

This idea really comes through, again and again, in the first half of Kirkpatrick’s book. And this absence of real (okay, online “real”) connection might be what’s missing for me.

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