Saturday, September 13, 2008

Social networking

To continue a rant from the latest podcast; I don’t know what to think of social networks and their affect on my social life. I like being around people and having friends, but I lose momentum once the interactions become less frequent. In high school and college, it was easy to maintain friendships. You saw your friends everyday and you could engage in my favorite topics of discussion; the everyday minutia of life. After college when we moved to different cities, the everyday discussion ended and it became weekly or monthly conversations where the discussions was either a summary of the minutia (less compelling), big events (less interesting) or dead air. And I don’t like talking on the phone.

So the result has been friendships that have stalled or died all together. And this includes some of my closest friends. It’s sad but seemed inevitable. Enter social networks. The beauty of Facebook is two fold. First, with everyone joining and the network effect kicking in, you can find people from high school who you haven’t talked to in years. One click and they are in your group. Second, you can quickly, after the initial, “summarize my life in the last 25 years” email, start sending quick snippets every couple of days that provide random updates on the minutia of your life. This can also be done with Facebook status updates or using Twitter. For example, Elena just lost her job and got engaged on the same day and let everyone know using Facebook. Some might call this impersonal but boom, in 15 seconds she let everyone know what was going on in her life.

With my fear of the phone, Facebook et al seem like the solution for being a social guy. But there are drawbacks. I have been accused of keeping things on the surface. It is relatively easy to get to know me on a basic level but becoming close to me is hard. I put up walls around me which prevent real friendships from forming. Does Facebook, which as a medium keeps things surface, perpetuate this even further. Does connecting with 345 people at once equal having in depth conversations with six. Quality over quantity?

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