A Closet Misanthrope’s View of Online Social Networking

Up until recently, my experiences with online social networking were limited to the rare messenger conversation or occasional IRC chat.

Since the beginning of my Internet life, I’ve leaned more toward the post/reply model of online communications; such as boards, forums, USENET newsgroups, etc. When MySpace first came online, I thought it to be silly, juvenile narcissism. My feelings toward MySpace carried over to the Facebook and Twitter crowd, once those became the “in” thing online. I mean, c’mon… follow along with Ashton Kutcher‘s daily escapades? It was obvious to this middle-aged (damn…it’s weird calling myself “middle-aged”) semi-misanthropic biker that these newfangled online things were mainly for the young attention-deficit-disordered crowd.

Hmm… well. I may have to change my views on this now. I’m man enough to stand up and admit when I’m wrong. I just don’t get much opportunity to do that since I’m rarely wrong. That being said, online social networking may actually have value for all folks out there, not just the hormonal yutes of the world. I can see the potential of the technology. I can understand now that there is a whole new world out there for young folks, old folks, business, hobbyists, technologists, educators, journalists, alien invaders, hackers, spammers, data miners, and even you.

You may have read about my previous articles HERE and HERE regarding my recent foray into the realm of online social networking; specifically, Google+. Well, I’ve been at it now for about ten days. The first couple days’ worth of my time there was utilized mostly for feeling my way around the place and looking for folks to put into my “circles”. Once I got that all squared (or circled) away, it was on to the actual interacting part of the show. Social intercourse with other human beings from all over the world. Wow! What a concept! Beats the hell out of smoke signals or snail mail, huh?

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There is a trick to enhancing your enjoyment of social networking on sites like Google+ (G+ for short). You need to have communicative and intelligent people, with whom you share some common interests, in your circles. Why? Simply because you need them to provide you with that steady flow (the Stream) of data that becomes your focus on these social sites. What is this “stream”, you might be asking? Well, if you’re my age or older, you can think of it as that steady rat-tat-tat of the old RTTY (radio teletype) machines tapping out reams of incoming data onto that tractor-fed paper roll. Or if you don’t remember those days, you can think of the stream as the news ticker that runs along the bottom (or top) of some modern cable news channels. The stream is the heart of your online social network. It’s where the action is.

If you have fun, smart, prolific posters, like Chris Pirillo for instance, in your circles in G+, you’ll have a steady stream of interesting and entertaining (and often very useful) data to read. If all you have in your circles is old uncle Bob, the retired carnival barker who can only access the Internet for 1 hour every three days from his cell in prison, then you’ll probably be pretty starved for decent stream data. Find those interesting folks. That’s half the fun of social networking. Whether you’re looking for celebs or scientists, chances are they’re on G+ (or Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Oh, and don’t forget to share. In other words, be sociable. Post replies to other posters in the stream. Post your own stream posts. Post pictures, music, tales of your latest bar-hopping spree, whatever… Sharing. That’s what social networking is all about. You don’t just want to be one of the quiet crowd hiding in your dark computer room and laughing to yourself about Chris Pirillo’s latest animated .gif posting. You want to be out there with the rest of those folks having fun!

Don’t be shy now.;)

See you on Google+

~Eric

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