When four different people I know - including my brother - asked me this question I succumbed. Yup, I am now on facebook.
Not that this is the first social networking site I have joined... Sometime in Nov 2003 I signed up for friendster and ryze - just on a whim. The next morning half a dozen people had dropped by to say hello on ryze and I never ever logged into friendster again.
At the time I joined, ryze was quite a happening place - a lot of media types and students from India were on it. I reconnected with a lot of ex-JAM writers and ex-colleagues, as well as made some new friends/ contacts. In fact, I attended a couple of the offline 'mixers' held in Bombay and one in Bangalore. I think I was pretty active on ryze for about 6-9 months.
Then it kind of fizzled out. For reasons unknown, ryze just wasn't able to attract enough new and interesting people. People of a certain standing/ professional background felt it wasn't worth wasting one's time on a networking site. After all hum to bahut logon ko jaante hi hain. Increasingly then, the folks joining ryze were MLM types, insurance agents and the like whose idea of 'business networking' was thrusting their card in your face and trying to sell.
The other problem with ryze was there was no reason to check in and do anything on the site on a regular basis. Except for maybe checking out postings on say Mumbai Business Networking messageboard - a kind of classified/ forum area.
Around this time I also joined a few more online networks. This however was part of the research for an article I wrote for Businessworld magazine in September 2004. Some of the sites I checked out:
1) ecademy.com:Too UK centric and pushy, much too pushy for my liking. 'Chairman' Thomas Power keeps bugging me to upgrade my membership ... even today.
2) Spoke.com, meetup.com: They were reasonably hot back then - dunno what their status is now but certainly there is no buzz around them now!
3) Linkedin.com: 3 years ago there were a mere 1100 members from India on orkut. Then, something happened. Now I get at least 3-4 requests a week from folks who want to be 'linked in'.
4) Lastly, orkut. At the time I wrote the piece orkut was just another SNS (social networking site). Hi5 was, I think, equally popular. But somewhere along the way orkut outpaced hi5 and took over as the # 1 online social network in India. The media discovered orkut and suddenly I found my cousins from small town India had embraced it as well.
Yeah, I too have an orkut profile but I never became an avid orkutter. That's because a lot of people would stop by and say hello but again they were mostly current or former readers/ contributors of JAM magazine. So again, it was important for me - as editor of a youth magazine - to be on orkut. To understand what it was all about and interact with my constituency.
But there was nothing to take forward most of the initial conversations further. And people of my generation were not to be found in large numbers. There was too much timepass and no 'utility' value for the 30+.
Finally that attitude is changing/ had changed. One morning I logged into Linkedin - after perhaps two years - and found 150 requests to be 'linked in' pending. I confirmed all of them, although I don't know 80-90%. Initially I thought I'd be choosy and confirm only those who had sent a personal message but then I said, what the hell.
Let's treat this like one giant online cocktail party where you have a chance to meet new people and exchange a business card. You never know when there may be a reason to connect with each other. Especially in my profession!
Of course this does not mean I will endorse the work of a complete stranger (don't ask me why, but people do request such odd things!).
So currently I have 250+ linked in connections - and growing. And that's why I was hesitant to join 'one more network'. For a while now, I've been getting 'I've added you as a friend on Facebook' kind of emails and I'm like - "No!! Not again!!"
But then I realised, hey - this can be different. I am using facebook only to connect with folks who are family, friends or acquaintances I know in the real world. So if I don't add you as a 'friend' - kindly don't mind it.
In any case, most invites come through the 'global signup route' where the site scours your address book (and even yahoo/ gmail inbox) to send a friend request to every id it can find. People have the option of only selecting their friends but guess what, most are too lazy and send the invite to everyone anyways.
Aside: I think various sites allow this because it's cheap and easy marketing. When you get 3 requests a day to join 'Shelfari' you think I better check it out coz everyone is joining it. Incidentally I did join Shelfari but... never used it.
Getting back to facebook - using it for just 2 days I'd have to say it has a certain addictive quality. Besides, my brother and I have exchanged more emails on it in 48 hours than we had over the last 2 months! Which means... it's working.
But will this really be the last SNS I join? The Google Open Social alliance is working hard to topple Facebook! The action continues... sigh!