What is a social network worth to you?

Here are the five stages of Facebook grief:

1. Confusion. What’s it for? How do I use it? Why would anyone want to post here? Who’s seeing this?

2. Discovery. Hey, my high school friends are here. Reading my News Feed actually makes me feel more connected to people. This is actually pretty fun. I look forward to checking Facebook every day. I love this.

3. Utility. Facebook helps me stay connected to former colleagues, which could help me find a job in the future. I learn things about my own kids that is valuable to me that I wouldn’t otherwise hear. It’s easier to communicate with everyone on Facebook than e-mail, phone calls or any other means. I need this.

4. Embarrassment. Whoa! I did NOT want my co-workers to see the picture of me someone else tagged. Too much personal information in that post! Whoops! I did not mean to offend someone — I forgot who would be listening.

5. Withdrawal. To avoid problems, I’m going to have to assume that everything I say is public, not private like I used to think. I’ll minimize my posts or stop using Facebook altogether.

Facebook has lived through many predictions of doom. Some expected it would decline a year after it started being market leader, because everything before it did (Friendster, Myspace…) But the next bigger thing hasn’t yet arrived.

Now that everyone and their mum seem to be on Facebook, it’s squarely in the mainstream, no longer an exciting novelty but an everyday utility, like banks and bins – the sort of thing the Daily Mail loves to moan and scare about.

But will Facebook become a nuisance to you, or will you just get fed up of it? If so, what’s next?

Pete Lawrence emailed me today confirming the details of his new “Pic-Nic Village” for creative types. He’s hoping it can avoid privacy concerns and advertising, and instead be based on community-sourced funding and development. This means the main functions of the site, due to launch next year, will not be free. I’m pretty sure there will be a passionate crowd of supporters. The question is, will that crowd be big enough to make it all go in a satisfying way, and not so big that people feel insignificant or even threatened by it all?

Would you pay to join a specialist social network?

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