Did you get nervous when you saw that all your Facebook friends had already adopted new Facebook profiles? Actually, not all of them. It started like this: “2 of your friends switched to new profile,” after a while, in your news feed, you read: “16 of your friends switched,” finally, “30 of your friends switched.” Photos tell even more than words, the phrase about switching is supplied with pictures of your friends who are already enjoying the new Facebook service. It is almost like Google’s strategy of advertising its Gmail:
The people who have updated their profiles right away are the early adopters; they are the go-to-people when it comes to using new things. Assume, that the quantity of the friends you have on Facebook is N. The first part of N would be the early adopters. Then, after reading the news, guessing about the outcome of their switching to a new profile, the pragmatics switch. They would constitute the second part of N. The fact that Facebook will forcefully change the design of everybody’s profile also helps: Conservatives, no matter whether they have wanted it, also eventually either switch to the new profile, because they want to get familiarized with this new feature or become laggards.
Finally, the laggards, people who are really proud to be the last ones who support the old format of the Facebook profile, will switch or will be forced to switch to a new profile by Facebook. In the latter case, they will create petitions to re-establish the old format of the Facebook profile. These petitions will end in a couple of months, leaving behind a heap of groups with members who favored the cause:
The total number of groups created for the “Bring the old Facebook cause” exceeded several hundred; the quantity of members varies: from one to several thousands, the layout of the petitions is also different: from having sexy babes as a front picture to a simple image of Facebook. Would Mark Zuckenberg bring the old Facebook back if the members of all those groups united?
Somewhere in-between the early adopters and pragmatists or even in the midst of conservatives, there is a category of people who want to look as if they were early adopters, because they want to be perceived as cool. Facebook supports and ignites this feeling of conformity. Or, as Randall Collins put it, it gets the feeling of conformity inside the heads of such publics, producing the wave of viral engagement.