Saturday, May 3, 2008 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

What's pointless about fun?

Over at "The Social," a CNet blog about social networking and social life, Caroline McCarthy discusses a new study that she says "reveals [a] shocking truth: Most Facebook apps are silly, pointless."

A new study from number-crunching firm Flowing Data did some eye-opening work recently, dividing 23,160 Facebook applications into 22 categories. A whopping 9,601 of them fall into Facebook's "just for fun" category, followed by "gaming" and "sports" with over 2,000 each. In other words, the majority of Facebook applications are goofy time-wasters.

She calls this "an unsettling piece of news that I don't think any of us saw coming" and says "The world of social networking may never be the same."

Sorry, but I fail to see why this is either "unsettling" or that social networking "will never be the same." The fact that many people would develop or use applications "just for fun" is hardly surprising, nor do I find it as lamentable as McCarthy or others who have been commenting on this new report.

A great number of OFFline applications in our homes or offices have been developed "just for fun" as well. Moreover, just because a lot of people are developing / using applications that are "just for fun" on social networking sites, that certainly doesn't mean that there aren't thousands of other great tools and applications out there that people are using. That chart makes that clear.

In fact, the concern raised here reminds me of debates about what's on cable television these days. Some people just can't get over the facts that large numbers of people watch a handful of channels that contain what they might regard as "mindless" entertainment or activities (think MTV, ESPN) instead of supposedly culturally-enriching fare. It's an old story, actually. Culture critics have always bemoaned the fact that people would rather be entertained than informed. But that's life, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Most people are getting more information and culturally-enriching affair today than ever before, but they will still consume more "just-for-fun" content and services in the aggregate. Why? Because it makes them happy. What's wrong with that?

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:55 AM | Generic Rant