Someone was asking me yesterday about social networks. And what with the constant stream of emails and posts about facebook, twitter, et al, I figured I may as well chime in on my stance.
My feelings on social networks and web 2.0 in general strongly mirror Derek’s, who said it so well, I’ll just give you his words:
I have this thing about trying to keep my online existence stable, so if you link to something of mine, it will still be around in a few years. If I gave you my email address or ICQ account number in 1996, or my blog URL in 2000, it still works…. I like to have an archive that persists.
I have this blog. I have my photos on flickr. I have a profile on LinkedIn. I really think that’s enough. I’ve had the same email address and cell phone number for at least 8 years, with no intentions of changing them.
But when you get down to the nitty gritty of my reasons, it’s honestly mostly out of sheer laziness. It’s a universal truth that any product with staying power will do one of two things: Increase Pleasure or Reduce Pain. I enjoy blogging, I find WordPress easy to use. Pleasure Increased. I very rarely included pictures in my blog posts, because I found it a huge hassle to upload them to my webspace and remember the code to insert an image (doing it so rarely meant I never bothered memorizing it). Enter flickr, and whaddya know – an easy way to store my photos, and include them on my blog. Pain reduced.
As for LinkedIn – It’s an easy way for me to remain connected with past colleagues, especially now that I’m job hunting, and maintain a network in a fairly unobtrusive way. It also keeps professional networking easy for the socially uncomfortable (myself included) by setting the tone for a conversation. Asking my old boss for a recommendation on my LinkedIn profile is easy for both of us, rather than dropping him a line out of the blue and asking for referrals or references when we haven’t even spoken in 3 years. LinkedIn for me is reducing pain and increasing pleasure because I’ve gotten some great introductions through the service as well.
Don’t even get me started on Second Life. Dealing with Real Life is more than enough most days.
So while I’m not writing on walls, or tweeting, or soaring through virtual worlds, or whatever else people do on the myriad of social networks available – I AM on the internet. I’m googleable by about 12 different variations of my name, and not at all hard to find or get in touch with.
Also, curmudgeon that I am, I’m really trying to spend my energies on valuable and authentic social relationships. Someone who only finds me because I happen to be on facebook, and starts a conversation with “So, what’ve you been up to in the past… 10 years…” is, nine times out of ten, just curious about where people in their past are now. If there was actually a solid basis for friendship, we’d have probably kept in touch a little more regularly.
However, the person who takes the time to google, find my blog, photos or profile, and actually makes an effort to keep in touch a little longer than the lifecycle of the average social networking site (Friendster who?) – well that’s what I want online social networking to deliver.