Does the nature of social networks limit their growth?

One idea in John Naughton’s 02007 round-up/02008 predictions struck me: that social networks like MySpace and Facebook “are likely to peak because ego-centric social networking is intrinsically limiting: after you’ve ‘befriended’ everyone you know, what else is there to do?”. He continues,

Next year will see mass outbreaks of a Facebook fatigue, as busy professionals realise they are wasting an hour or more a day on essentially mindless activities. By contrast, activity-based networking sites, such as, will continue to prosper, for the simple reason that they are not self-limiting in the way that ego-centric services are.

On Flickr, as long as you maintain your interest in photography, you will always have more photos you can upload share. On, there will always be more music to discover and listen to.

But Naughton’s suggestion that there’s nothing to do on Facebook and MySpace ignores the role on social networks of people who make it their business to aggregate people, broker new collaborations or create messages that people will want to share. A minority of these are precious: latch onto their coattails and you will get good introductions to fascinating people. The majority are poisonous: once they have your details they will besiege you with all kinds of message and pokes that are either tiresomely self-promotional or bemusingly random.

The sad fact is that it’s the bores that drive the most visible and aggressive growth in activity, so the likes of MySpace and Facebook tend to encourage them. But fast growth leads to fast fatigue. We might all be better off if the social networks would nurture the gold dust few who do networking really well.

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