Google and the Social Web

The folks over on the Google Blog have posted a nice article focussing on how the internet has changed communication between friends.

Having kinda grown up around computers and discovering the internet in it’s very early forms at University, I’ve not really noticed much of this – but the truth is, in the last ten to fifteen years communication has taken a very timely change.

15 years ago, if a friend of mine was on holiday on the other side of the world, he’d send a postcard, and I’d get it a few days after his return.

Now, he can just log onto a local wifi network, and update his Facebook status “Live”, and every one of his friends will know exactly what he wants to say in a matter of seconds.

If he wants to send me a message directly, international SMS is also near instant.  I’ve had conversations over SMS without even realising the person I’m txting is on a different continent.


The downside to this instant, “burst” short messaging is that the art of writing a letter is being lost.  Letters are now something for business, for solicitors.  Not for friends.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to a friend who lives too far away to just “pop over”, just to communicate what’s going on in your life?  I’ll bet it’s been years, because now all your friends are on Facebook, or MySpace, or reading your blog, there’s just no need to keep in touch properly.

These short bursts of information are one thing – but they’ve left a space in communication – the space a letter used to occupy.  Do you miss out on the “news” from your friends – because there’s a gap between the stuff you post on Facebook, and the stuff that end’s up in the “once a year” Christmas Family Newsletter.  But equally, there are likely things that you don’t want to share with everyone.  Does you schoolfriend from 20 years ago really need to see the photos from your office Christmas Party?

At the moment, there’s a gap – there’s a lack of communication from friend to friend in the space that a letter used to occupy.

Google Blog: The Social Web


4 thoughts on “Google and the Social Web

  1. When was the last time you wrote a letter to a friend who lives too far away to just “pop over”, just to communicate what’s going on in your life?

    I’m obviously still a little old fashioned – I wrote to a friend in New Zealand about two weeks ago. Sometimes, something handwritten is just better.

    I know what you mean though. The world is getting smaller in terms of travel and communication and to a degree, a whole lot less personal. That can be good, but it can also be not-so-good.

    Kinda makes me wonder how I’ll be communicating with people in another 20 years.

  2. I dread to think what another 20 years will bring – given how far we’ve come in the last 20.

    I think the likes of Twitter and are the likely progression – simply “following” people you know, and getting instant updates on anything they do – combine all the sources into a LifeStream type feed, and the distinction between “people I know on Twitter”, “People I know on Facebook”, “People who read my blog” just vanishes – everyone gets to know everything.

    For example, at the moment I follow Ollie in a few different places – Twitter,, Flickr, 2 of his blogs, Facebook etc. The next “big thing” I think will be a service that blurs that boundaries – so it’s not “following on Flickr” and “following in Facebook” and “reading his blog” – it’s just “Following Ollie” (but not in a stalker sense)

  3. “Following Ollie” (but not in a stalker sense)

    😀 I think that’s the way it will eventually go as well – a giant amalgamated “Follow Me”. Services like Profilactic have sort of started doing this with rolling all the feeds into one stream, and I think FriendFeed is similar. But one day, it will just be, “Hey, there’s Ollie.” *One click.* Everything you could imagine integrated.

  4. I still write postcards as it goes. I tend to send about 30 each holiday which can be quite time consuming but people really appreciate it.

    On Friend Feed (I believe I don’t use it yet) there is a fake follow so you can look like you are following somebody but you don’t have to read them!

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