|Social Networking Addiction|
If you're on the internet these days, you're most likely involved in some form of social networking whether its Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Foursquare or the dozen other sites used for connecting with people. For months I've wanted to write about this all consuming portal which has invaded our lifestyles, and charged our habits to probably the same extent that microwave ovens altered meal preparation.
And before I get on my high horse, I should fully admit that I'm no different than the the punk kids with their baseball caps on sideways that you see banging away on their cell phones to shoot virtual objects in the sky or pretending to race the Grand Prix, or what-have-you. And for the record, any jab I take at users of social media also applies to me as well. So if I can take the heat, so can you.
First, let's look at Facebook. Back about two years ago, as if out of nowhere - Facebook caught like wildfire. It became almost like a game to see if you could connect with as many people as you knew (or didn't know - and I'll get to that later). And at first, the majority of users never realized the implications of bringing together work associates, high school buddies, and even neighbors together in the same place. It's sort of like a terrible seating arrangement at a wedding.
Not that it would surprise anyone, but my original Facebook friends were like-minded college- based political friends who stayed in touch with each other well beyond our college years. So after some time I began to receive requests from high school friends, and junior high school friends, and others - and that's when things began to get weird. First it was sort of fun to find out what people had become after 15-20 years of elapsed time. And I have to admit - it was interesting to find out who ended up married, divorced, or never got married at all. After a while, the novelty became sort of old - and it occurs to you why you never kept in touch with some people, and why you did keep in touch with others.
Fast forward to the present. After a few years of using Facebook, I've come to some hard and fast rules about its use.
1. Much like email, tone and inflection can be misinterpreted
2. People can be fickle. Roll with it.
3. Don't put work friends on your page, ever. People at work have no need to know your business.
4. You can learn a lot about people from their writing. Including how smart or how stupid they are.
5. Facebook is best used among friends and associates whom you've actually met. (I think I have a handful few contacts whom I haven't met in person on my list).
6. Adding family to Facebook is a bad idea - almost worse than putting work associates on Facebook.
7. It's your wall, and your page. You don't have to appease anyone, so if people unfriend you because they don't like what you write or think - don't worry about it.
8. Don't expect your real-life friends to support your politics or positions on Facebook because some aren't as courageous as you.
9. Weed out your friend list once in a while. Social Networking means actually socially interacting and networking. Lurkers not wanted.
10. If you go on vacation, you don't need to tell your Facebook friends. Remember the phrase "Loose lips sink ships"? Well, they also share gossip about friends not being home. And there have been a few cases where bragging led to break ins. Be smart.
And that's that!
Twitter is a twilight zone of sorts. And I like it a lot for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, for information gurus - like myself - its a wealth of information at your fingertips. Enter any topic preceded by a hash sign and your likely to get the most up-to-date, unfiltered stories or updates in seconds! Further, ask any question with the right hash sign and you're more than apt to get several answers back on your query from product questions, to what stain to use on decks.
Twitter allows you to participate in group conversations in an inconspicuous manner. Unlike Facebook where your name and face appears on group pages along with your comments, you can be one-hundred percent anonymous. I think this is particularly important since there are no privacy settings on Twitter, and anyone can follow you or look at your feed to determine what and when you send things.
There is nothing dishonest about being anonymous. But there is something moronic about giving everyone your real name, sharing your every move, and taking the risk by assuming that some jerk might not use your tweets as a weapon against you in some unexpected form. There are a lot of weirdos out there waiting for their chance to prey upon some victim so try to mitigate the risks by not being too revealing of your own personal information. The whole world can read your tweets, and some people can query where you are, by running location queries on cell towers. After a while, anyone who puts their mind to it can figure out your usual tracks through hints and details over a period of time. Humans are creatures of habit, and sometimes it can lead to their demise.
All in all, my experience with Twitter has been enjoyable. It's fun to watch sports games, debates and shows with Twitter on hand. You make "twitter friends" pretty quickly, and find you have a lot in common with people down the line on a variety of topics. And it can become pretty entertaining if not challenging to be clever within the limited 140 characters.
During the Chesire Home Invasion Trial, I met some great people who shared the same mindset about what should happen to the evil creep Steven Hayes and his cowardly associate. It can be refreshing to come across like-minded people through group connections like this. A bunch of us formed a congenial relationship and continue to chat now and then about less serious stuff. That's a benefit of Twitter.
I think you also have to have a tough shell to play on Twitter. People follow and unfollow you without warning. It's a good lesson in recognizing that these relationships are temporary and you can't take it personal if someone drops you because they don't like your point of view, or even if they do, they may find you too verbose, one dimensional, or simply boring.
Twitter is a tool that allows you to see the best and worst in people. There isn't much of a filter, and people don't need to hold back because there isn't much risk in typing what you think behind a phony persona. Twitter is less visual than Facebook, so I know some people simply hate it for that reason. Many of these people are that types that need to see everything, and leave little to the imagination - like a little kid that hates books without pictures. Oh well, to each their own.
Driving and Social Networking
Yep, this topic has everyone buzzing. With the advent of the new mobile phone products, you can not only talk while driving, but you can also type or message on social networking sites. Social networking is damn addicting! Checking in with your tweeps, and sending out useless information as if its the most important thing in the world to do at THAT VERY MOMENT is part of the habit and addiction. Some think it has to do with rewiring of the brain so that you need to multitask at a constant rate, and tweeting, listening to music, talking or what have you satisfies the urge to do so much at once.
The problem with the driving and texting or surfing or whatever is that we now have a ton of distracted drivers doing everything except driving and focusing on the road. Admittedly, I'm not much different than some of the teenage punks, although I've become better over the last few months. Of course, it only takes a second, and better isn't part of the equation if I smash my car into a thousand pieces and end up like roadkill.
So that's my take on social networking. What can I say.... tweet, tweet, tweet.