I came across an interesting article about Facebook in New York Times by Clive Thompson via a post by Betsy Carrol at Leading Virtually:
By 2006, students were posting heaps of personal details onto their Facebook pages...//...Facebook became the de facto public commons — the way students found out what everyone around them was like and what he or she was doing. But Zuckerberg knew Facebook had one major problem: It required a lot of active surfing on the part of its users...//...Browsing Facebook was like constantly poking your head into someone’s room to see how she was doing.
"It was very primitive," Zuckerberg told me when I asked him about it last month. And so he decided to modernize. He developed something he called News Feed, a built-in service that would actively broadcast changes in a user’s page to every one of his or her friends. Facebook had lost its vestigial bit of privacy. For students, it was now like being at a giant, open party filled with everyone you know, able to eavesdrop on what everyone else was saying, all the time.
Zuckerberg, surprised by the outcry, quickly made two decisions. The first was to add a privacy feature to News Feed, letting users decide what kind of information went out. But the second decision was to leave News Feed otherwise intact. He suspected that once people tried it and got over their shock, they’d like it.
Psychologists and sociologists spent years wondering how humanity would adjust to the anonymity of life in the city, the wrenching upheavals of mobile immigrant labor — a world of lonely people ripped from their social ties. We now have precisely the opposite problem. Indeed, our modern awareness tools reverse the original conceit of the Internet. When cyberspace came along in the early ’90s, it was celebrated as a place where you could reinvent your identity — become someone new....//..."If anything, it’s identity-constraining now," Tufekci told me. "You can’t
play with your identity if your audience is always checking up on you".
In the post "Fostering Ambient Awareness in Virtual Teams" Betsy Carroll discusses the article and how the "ambient awareness" which the news feeds feature on Facebook but also services such as Twitter has brought to us can be used in virtual teams:
Primarily, we learn from this article that numerous small electronic contacts with others can build relationships when people are away from one another.
Since virtual team members are typically dispersed, awareness tools might be very useful for leaders to help team members grow closer, building cohesion and trust.
If you want to get your virtual team in the habit of frequent small contact, role modeling from you as team leader will be much more successful than trying to require contact.
Betsy Carroll also provides "some basic guidelines for a virtual team leader to incorporate the use of frequent short contacts for team building" in the same post that you should check out.