Saturday, December 12, 2009
Social Networking: Do You Do It? Where, Why, and How?
Do you frequent social networking sites? If so, which ones? Why, and how do you use them? To keep up with friends? To make professional contacts? I'm curious because this is one aspect of the Internet I just can't warm up to.
My readers must know by now that while I am old, I am not an old fogey. I have embraced the internet from the days when it took its first baby steps beyond the world of cyber-geeks. I joined the very earliest reviewers on Amazon back when they sold only books and public reviewing made them unique. I jumped into discussion forums in a big way, and I'm sure I don't need to mention how I championed online publications long before they cut into print's bottom line. I would also say I do a lot of networking online, but not at networking sites. I blog and visit and comment on other blogs. I've gone through several different website formats. I advertise my editing business, CROSSxCHECKING online, but there's something about those social sites I just can't get into.
First there was Facebook, begun by college kids to help other college kids stay in touch with high school friends and meet new people. It began just around the time my daughter left for college and remained the purview of the younger set until about a year ago when it suddenly exploded with adults posting profiles and searching for old friends. MySpace is pretty much the same though my daughter tells me it originally attracted the younger or non-collegiate set. I hadn't quite gotten used to either of those when everyone, young and old, started using Twitter, where you can gab the day away by keeping it down to 140 characters.
I have a profile on all these sites by default. Some group, organization, or publication I was associated with posted a profile and in order to become a follower or friend I needed to join. Search my page and you will find, almost exclusively, messages about political causes I support where the organization sent me an e-mail where all I needed to do was click on the link for the message to appear on my site for my handful of followers to read. Or at least I think that's how it works. For all I know my Tweets may be going out to the entire world.
It really isn't that I have anything against these sites per se, but there are several things keeping me away. One is the learning curve. They never seem to provide simple instructions on how it works. Mostly you learn through trial and error. When the Rose & Thorn went on Facebook I sent out more requests than a needy kindergartener to become a friend thinking it somehow didn't take because I wasn't informed immediately. And Twitter, don't even get me started about how arcane that system is.
The main reason though is, I haven't quite figured out why I should. In the past months I've received messages from acquaintances or former acquaintances who want to be my friend on Facebook. Some of them have my e-mail or phone number, so, um, why do we need to go to some other site to communicate? As for those with whom I've lost touch, like maybe there was a reason? Now I'm reading all the time about how Twitter provides a great tool for writers. You can advertise your own work, and it's supposed to have taken the place of classifieds for finding jobs. But I can't figure out how my ads are going to stand out in the cacophony, and as for the search end, that's another whole thing to figure out. I'm sure I could if I spent enough time, but, frankly, I don't know that I particularly want to. As a writer I already spend enough time I could otherwise use writing on Internet activities someone has convinced me are necessary like, yes, blogging and maintaining my website, and chatting in forums.
But there's a side of me that feels a little guilty about this. Am I falling behind? Have I really made a reasoned decision or am I just afraid of the unknown? Is shunning Tweets the middle-aged equivalent of my Mom shunning e-mail? Am I turning into a curmudgeon or simply trying to make better use of my time?
So, what do you think?