Many Facebook users don't understand how status changes are seen by their "friends". In conversations with my non-geek friends, I somewhat consistently hear that they think all their friends see their status changes. Those of us who know a bit more about web apps and social networking know that this is not the case: your friends only see your status change if Facebook-the-corporation wants them to.
As an experiment, I changed my status last Sunday to "is conducting an experiment. Please send me an email (to any of my addresses) when you see this Facebook status. Results to be reported later." Of my 272 "friends", 11 responded to my proper.com (personal) address, 3 to my vpnc.org (current business) address, and 1 responded to my Gmail (mixed) address. Only 1 responded in Facebook email. Everyone who responded did so within 24 hours. I kept that status for the whole week, only changing it Saturday morning.
For me, some interesting results of the experiment were:
- It seems likely that Facebook only showed my status change for about a day, and only to a small number of my "friends".
- A few people thought that responding to the status message itself constituted email.
- The people responding were widely distributed among actual friends, business contacts, and barely-known people with whom I have become "friends".
- Probably no one looked at my Facebook profile during the week.
- Facebook users don't think much about Facebook email, or they don't consider it one of "my addresses".
- No one uses my imc.org address any more, even though it was my primary business email address for many years.
It's clear that Facebook's rampant popularity will definitely change the way people think of online communication.