Monday, December 01, 2008

Social Networking: It's a Good Thing ?

Socially, I was pretty busy over the Thanksgiving holiday. In fact, I added a flock of new friends to my cyber network – my Facebook world, that is. You’ve read about my adventures in Facebook – the whole discussion about Ambient Awareness . . . . Well, I decided to step it up a notch and see what would happen if I put myself out there a little. Right before the break, I sent out invitations to join Facebook to about 4-5 friends who didn’t already have accounts. To my surprise, I think all of them joined. Not only did all of them join, in some cases, so did their entire extended family.

So, now, my network on Facebook consists of people from their 20’s – their 70’s . I have friends from high school, college, grown-up life, their kids, their parents, my nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters-in-law, people I’ve met through my job, etc. There is no one on my list that I didn’t already have a relationship with in real life. It’s kind of like “hanging out” with my friends, but online. I guess if I put myself out there even further, I might make actual new friends – maybe join a club or group in Facebook. That may be my next experiment.

Needless to say, when I saw this blog post,

Social Networking: It’s a Good Thing, by Joe Crawford, I had to find out more about this “good thing” I was doing. According to Crawford, “A new study suggests that social networking is a beneficial activity, despite concerns about young people spending too much time tethered to the Internet and worries over online predators. Creating a profile on sites like MySpace and Facebook is a creative way to express one's identity, researchers noted, and hanging out with one's friends online is generally safe and healthy”

I get all that, but I have questions. Is this something we should encourage? Is this something we should deny? Or, is this something we should just roll with? Here’s what I’ve gathered from the post. As usual, adults don’t get it. No surprise there! Adults see time online as risky and unproductive. However, according to research, kids need to be online in order to develop the skills of their generation. (Wow, it may be possible that I am not equipped to see that, being an adult and all.) Kids don’t see it as unproductive – it is more like hanging out or talking on the phone. Seems like I remember my mom telling me I wasted way too much time “hanging” on the phone . . . why didn’t I just go visit the person, it’s much more polite. My mom simply didn’t get it. That’s just what we did. We talked to a “crush” on the phone first, after a dozen conversations with all my girlfriends - not face-to-face. Geez, Mom! I think for kids now, it’s the same thing. This online stuff, these are social skills for their generation. Their networks consist of people they already have relationships with. As for me and my posse, I could paint my nails, eat cereal, watch TV, and fight with my brothers all while talking on the phone – AND I could easily remember at least two dozen phone numbers at any given time. Ummm . . . I think they call it multi-tasking now.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving evening 2008. Picture me with a laptop, the TV, a house full of family, a piece of pumpkin pie, and about four conversations going at once. Have things changed so much? Here’s what really cracks me up. My mother actually said, “Why don’t you turn off that stupid computer and call people. It’s much more polite. “

I will probably never be as adept as kids are at the online facet of relationships that exists these days, but I’m dipping my toe in the water. I like it and I’m doing okay and it’s feeling a little more natural.

BTW – my mother spends most evenings watching television ON THE PHONE with her posse!

Just Sharin’
Lee Anne


Anonymous said...

I find it an interesting coincidence that one of my blogger friends also posted about Facebook today: My Facebook has Tipped. Guess it must be a Facebook kind of day.

Initially I had joined Facebook to be productive and explore its possibilities as a learning tool. I figured I'd friend a few of the other bloggers and we'd fumble around together. I'd been on for less than 2 hours when someone from middle school and marching band friended me. Now I have a combination of friends from high school and college (all the music ed majors seem to be on Facebook), plus blogger friends who I haven't met in real life.

I think Facebook added another layer to the online-only relationships that is more personal than how I usually portray myself on my blog. And while I haven't really seen a great need for it as a learning tool (not with our audience anyway), it's been a lot of fun to catch up with friends who I wouldn't have much contact with otherwise.

Of course, I spend a lot of time playing games on Facebook. One of my friends (the mom of a friend from high school) told me that I'm personally responsible for her wasting more time on Facebook than she ever thought possible. Then I introduced her to Wordscraper, and we're on rematch number 4 or 5 now.

Facebook is just a fun place to hang out. I agree that it's probably easier to reinforce existing relationships there than to make new ones, but I've certainly "met" a few people through Facebook too.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Lee Anne said...

Christy, thanks for sharing! I play some games, but I haven't let myself get too caught up, yet. I know how I am!

Here's what I find interesting, you and your friend both point this out, age is not necessarily an issue or a criterion for a network. Your network could be anyone. I find these social networking sites to be equalizers.

I also find the same is true on professional/educator networking sites, like Classroom 2.0. There, your network is deep and wide. First year teachers to veteran. Technically gifted to technically stumbling, etc. But it works! People seem to find what they need. Now, Classroom 2.0 is an example of a place where I have interacted with people I don't have a previous relationship, but that fits with my purpose there. Those are professional interactions, not personal.

I have worked to create an online professional learning network. I haven't worked to create an online "personal" network. This is interesting. I kind of wish I taught social psychology!

Lee Anne