What’s What with Social Networking?

So here’s my question. What do you think about social networks? I mean, first MySpace was all the rage, then Facebook, and now Twitter.

Once upon a time, I was involved in a growing online community, Faith in Fiction. We discussed books and writing and faith. It was a happening place where mostly wannabe authors congregated. A good number of those authors are now published and have blossoming writing careers.

But along the way, some of the regulars weren’t so regular any more. As it turned out, they had moved to the suburbs—they’d started their own blogs and were building their own communities. Consequently, they no longer had time to visit the old neighborhood.

Obviously I eventually followed suit. But now come the social (and business, a la LinkedIn) networks. Are these the new ‘burbs? Are people leaving Blogland for Twitterville? And why would they?

Is it time? Perhaps no one wants to take the time to read 400-800 word articles when you can touch bases with a scant 140 characters. But touching bases at what level? Can a person communicate anything meaningful in a Tweet?

As near as I can determine, Twitter was never intended to be a place for meaningful connection. Facebook gives many more options, but still, the format seems to encourage shorter bursts of thought or fun and games.

I had envisioned that my presence on Facebook might bring more visitors here to A Christian Worldview of Fiction, but so far I don’t have the numbers to back up that premise (although it’s a little hard to tell since I’ve been involved in two blog tours in the short amount of time I’ve been on Facebook).

So I’m wondering. Is our culture creating a sound-bite mentality? If it can’t be said in an easily repeated catch phrase, it isn’t worth saying … or reading?

Honestly, I feel privileged. I mean, Facebook has put me back in touch with many, many people I thought I’d lost track of.

But I’m wondering if the post-Facebook crowd, who no longer drives or walks or sits without an iPod playing or a cell phone implant hanging from their ear, will have people with whom to reconnect. I mean, what are friendships made of these days? Virtual coffee or St. Patrick Day shamrocks, a one line “sorry you’re having a bad day” bit of encouragement? How real are the connections?

This inquiring mind wants to know.

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 10:50 am  Comments (11)  
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11 Comments

  1. The trend seems to be from quality to quantity. And you could probably make the case that the trend started in the pre-telephone era. Without telephones, people had to either travel to one another in order to communicate or write a letter, and thus made their visits/letters meaningful. The telephone probably cheapened that slightly, though it allowed communication with more people in a shorter time span. Then came e-mail, then text messaging/social networking. It all results in the ability to connect with a huge amount of people on a shallow level. That’s how I see it, anyway. Personally, society is advancing way too fast for me to keep up with.

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  2. I think meaningful connection can occur in any of these mediums, and yes, while there are many more options now, this certainly doesn’t diminish the opportunity for deeper conversation. But Business seem to be catching on. I see more marketing posing as pseudo-meaningful conversation these days through facebook, myspace, twitter and the blogosphere – you really have to wade through the muck to find someone with something interesting, or purposeful to say.

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  3. We are trending toward 24/7 e-connectedness. Heck, might as well implant microscopic GPS’s into the population so that my every move — literally — can be monitored by enquiring minds. But if the Twitter-izing of the civilized world is any indication, substance is being substituted for triviality. I’ll concede that social networking can be good for businesses and business people. But the majority of Tweets I encounter concern a minutiae of daily, mundane, functions. Becky, I like you and all. But frankly I don’t give a rip what you do from hour to hour. Not only do I not have the time to log my daily functions, I don’t really care about others’. Call me old school, but I’d still rather “take the time to read 400-800 word articles” rather than “touch bases with a scant 140 character.” Contemplation and solitude are biblical disciplines. Deep, lineal, sustained thought is still a virtue. And in our new soundbyte community, alas, even moreso.

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  4. Yodeling Dwarf, I never thought about how the telephone changed society and people’s interactions. Very interesting! I don’t mind the changes. I think it’s remarkable to think about. What I mind is the money it takes to stay up on everything. I don’t know how so many do it! 😮

    Becky

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  5. Alex, just yesterday I read a post by Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, and he said his blog is his base camp. The other places like Twitter and Facebook are satellites. That made sense to me, if a person uses those other locations in that way. That’s what I’m attempting with Facebook anyway. If I point others here, then I will feel like it was meaningful communication. ‘Cause “here” is where I can expound on what I’m thinking and respond to meaningful feedback.

    Mike, you said it perfectly. And to be honest, I would be a little worried if someone out there in Cyberland cared what I had for breakfast. I might discuss my eating habits with friends and family, but does the whole world need to know? Or care? Of course not.

    Those trivial posts are the ones that have me rolling my eyes—and yes, even though I’m not on Twitter, I see them, because a number of people have their blurbs pop up on their blog or on their Facebook page. I think, Do they have nothing better to do with their time? and, Who cares?

    I don’t think those are good thoughts to generate in the minds of those to whom you’re supposedly trying to connect with. But that’s why I was wondering if it was just me.

    Becky

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  6. I think it’s simple. Our ‘modern’ lives are so full and busy that nobody thinks they have the time or will take the time to engage in a meaningful relationship with a few choice individuals. We have become a society that is a mile wide but an inch deep.

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  7. The immediate drives out the important.

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  8. Hhmm, does anybody remember the classic SF novels by Isaac Asimov: ‘Caves of Steel’ and ‘The Naked Sun’ – particularly the latter? In that one, people never met in person, only contacted each other by electronic means. They referred to it as “viewing” since that’s what they did, even to dining ‘together’ by viewing. They would get physically ill at the thought of being in actual face-to-face contact with each other.

    My husband commented the other day that we all seem to be heading that way with all these electronic means. Now there’s a scary thought!!

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  9. I’ve heard it said that this generation of teens is being referred to as the “silent generation.” Their use of oral communication is decreasing. Their vocab is shrinking. And their way to connect is through technology…short bursts of words, abbreviations, quick thoughts, etc.

    I’m on Twitter now and really don’t see much future there for me to connect on a deeper level. I do use some of the tweets as springboards for blog ideas. But I don’t see tweets as something that elicit a response great enough to form a relationship of any kind.

    Do real “tweets” by the feathered species have a purpose other than just making noise? I suspect they do. So are tweets on Twitter rather one-sided?

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  10. I tweet, therefore I am.

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  11. Hey, Becky!
    I thought I’d weigh in with my small and limited viewpoint on this deep subject…

    I quit blogging because I simply didn’t have time to keep it up (carpal tunnel helped me with the decision). I made a conscious choice to focus more on my novels than the blog. (I mean, a girl’s gotta eat, right? And I didn’t earn any money from my blog.)

    Then after a few months, I got pulled into Facebook and found that I could accomplish so much more with an unbelievably small amount of effort. I really didn’t get much interaction on my site.

    But with Facebook, I have honest-to-goodness conversations with people that I’d lost contact with. For me, it’s also a great place to stay connected with other people in the publishing industry–friends and coworkers who have moved to other states.

    In time, Facebook may be a place to help promote my novels when they get published. But for me, I still believe the best thing I can do to promote my work is to write the best book I can. My blog wasn’t helping me in that arena. It was only taking time away from my book.

    And, now that I am no longer in a 9-to-5 publishing environment, Facebook is a way that I can stay “connected” with the rest of the publishing world.

    Honestly, there are only a couple of blogs that I even visit anymore. I guess, from my perspective, it was all a precursor to the recession. I had to work faster, harder, longer, cheaper for so long that I was too burned out at the end of the day to wander through the cyber universe. I have a feeling that the same thing was happening to other people. I HAD to focus on things that would pay the rent and the phone bill.

    Another problem I had with my blog was this–I posted some of my writing there (short pieces) and then found out that I couldn’t get them published anywhere else. The types of online literary Zines that I hoped to gain entrance into wouldn’t accept something that had already been posted on a blog. So I was basically “shooting myself in the cyber foot.” Writing for my own universe. Which was never my goal.

    So, as much as I loved my day in the blog sun, I think it may be over. A few random opinions or reviews from time to time, but it’s just a sign on the side of the internet freeway now.

    I was here. Now I’m gone.

    [but I still love YOUR blog, Becky!]

    Merrie

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