Facebook is a Frat House, Google+ a Sorority

I’ve finally found a near-perfect analogy for Facebook and Google+, and really for all things social media marketing. Facebook is a frat house, and Google+ a sorority. Both the male and female sides of the Greek system have several aspects in common. Consider the following benefits:

  • Camaraderie and life long friendships
  • Professional networking opportunities
  • Community engagement among like-minded people

Those are some of the upsides of going Greek at a college or university. But we all have preconceptions of the world of fraternities and sororities. In fact, these biased viewpoints are quite different depending on which kind of Greek house we’re discussing. Imagine, for example, the stereotypical fraternity on your standard state college campus. (Not the actual ones, my friends who work in the Greek community, the mental picture we have from Hollywood.) Got it? Okay, now here’s what you are probably thinking about:

  • Wild parties that last all night
  • Private rooms, but no real privacy
  • Random interior design, with movie posters and neon signs
  • Usually messy and disorganized

Now, flip the coin and think of your typical college sorority. And again, I’m not talking about the actual sororities of today, I’m talking about the idea of a sorority as propagated by made-for-TV movies. Here are a few key points:

  • Organized weekly meetings with minute-by-minute agendas and extremely attentive audiences
  • Flawless common areas that are always clean and have impeccable interior design
  • Carefully managed public reputations and precise house procedures

The culture of these two stereotypes of institutions seem to match up closely with the worlds of Facebook and Google+. Your Facebook page is a 24-hour sharefest, where people are putting out all kinds of crazy pictures, links and videos, and engaging in discussions on virtually any topic. Facebook is also the place where errant pictures or comments lead to privacy issues that get people fired. Facebook is riddled with advertisement and features and changes it’s layout every few months. Facebook is a frat house and the party never ends.

Google+, however, is much more like our stereotype of a sorority. It runs on measured discourse and carefully-described systems for sharing and viewing. It’s got a clean design with thin lines and no flashing advertisements or gaudy, out-of-place boxes. Your Google+ page is layered behind walls of your own design, not shared out for everyone to see. And unlike a fraternity, where everyone is friends all the time, the “sorority” of Google+ has an element of intentional choice about who you consider part of your “circles.”

Maybe this isn’t a perfect analogy. It does depend on inaccurate stereotypes of the Greek system, not the real deal. Unlike joining a frat, Facebook (and Google+) are free. And as far as I know, you can’t be in both a fraternity and a sorority at the same time.

Nevertheless, users of Facebook and Google+, as well as occupants of fraternity and sorority houses, are all tenants. We are all part of a community based on some shared connection, and we are here at the pleasure of our respective landlords. This may be the most profound element of this analogy. Or as my friend Jeb Banner writes:

There is a big difference between renting and owning. It changes the way you connect to an object. It changes the impact that object has on your life.

I believe that digital technology, including the Web, is enabling a rental mindset. This rental mindset is insidious. It is changing how we value the content we create and consume. We, myself very much included, toss content out almost at random with little thought to where it lands. No-one is saving letters in a box. No-one is saving anything. Why bother when it doesn’t seem real?

Thanks for reading. See you back at the frat.

One comment

  1. 1

    I can’t help but think that the frat from Animal House is the best analogy for MySpace, not Facebook.

    I think of social networking sites as an evolutionary process, with Google+ as the next step — from the spastic, headache-inducing free-for-all of MySpace to a slightly more conformist and controlled Facebook to a cleaner and even more controlled Google+.

    So, I guess, using your analogy, we’re all evolving into women, no?

    Worse things have happened.

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