Admittedly, I have become a product of the social-networking age. I Facebook. I Twitter. I Link-in. I You-Tube. At some point I Plaxo'd. Yet, a lot of the time, I do it because 'everyone else is doing it'...not because I'm predisposed to.
Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with these online networks. On the upside, each has its benefits; and the idea of linking with the world is extremely provocative and maybe even romantic. On the downside, I find some aspects of this form of connecting somewhat off-putting.
Curious if I was alone in my way of thinking, I questioned a lot of friends and colleagues on the topic. Much to my surprise (and to my delight), it turns out I'm not alone...many people take umbrage with several aspects of the social-networking phenomenon:
- Ridiculous Updates: 'Updating' people on a regular basis on the most insignificant and meaningless things is beyond strange. Personally, telling people what, how, and where I do things, just doesn't appeal. And when I see updates akin to "I brushed my teeth," "I walked my dog," or "I pooped," I'm not launched into a huge state of enthusiasm. We all brush our teeth, and we all go to the bathroom, but do we really need to share the intimate details of these basic human behaviors? No...I don't think so.
- Insincerity: On more of the social variety of networks, it amazes me when people you haven't spoken with in over 15 years request your 'friendship'...only to turn around, after you accept, and never contact you again. Why connect if you have no intention of..."connecting"?
- Indecent Exposure: You have to love when people 'tag' you in photographs from twenty years ago when you were in your awkward teenage years. There is nothing like coke-bottom-glasses and braces to make your image and reputation skyrocket.
- Are we in High School?: I think that this is a bit related to #2...but people who become friends with the world...just so they can have the highest number of 'friends' is a bit sophomoric. Maybe these people weren't popular in high school and now want to be...or maybe they WERE popular and can't let go of the wonder years.
- New Best Friends: I admit, it is wonderful to reconnect with long lost pals, but when an individual 'cyberstalks' you, you have to wonder what else they do in their lives.
All of that said, I do agree that there are some real benefits to this format of connecting:
- Free Marketing: It is a great way for start-ups and companies to gain an underground following. You can use it to broadcast updates, news and even articles and blog entries to the masses.
- Virtual Communities: There is tremendous benefit and value in developing virtual communities who are passionate about niche topics (E.g., music, travel, wellness, etc.).
- Networking Made Easy: Having the ability to store and access information on past and current colleagues, as well as professionals in your industry is as simple as a click of a button. You can 'virtually meet' individuals who may be a great contact.
- Staying in Touch: And lastly, from a personal perspective, it can be a great way to reconnect with long lost classmates, colleagues and friends, and to stay connected to friends and family.
Now, you might be surprised to learn that I've just launched a community (aka...Social Network) for Sheer Balance. I am extremely hopeful that people will join...make new friends...write blogs about their ups and downs of healthy living...connect through groups, etc. Mostly, I hope that people find real value in the community and that it doesn't fall victim to some of the not so attractive aspects. But, time will tell...
So, what are your feelings about social networking? Do you find it to be positive? Do you agree with some of the negatives? How often do you 'network'?
(OH...and if you haven't already noticed...I'd love for you to join the Sheer Balance Community!)