Getting to Know the Web

What do you do on Facebook and Twitter? Love it or hate it? Or just can’t be bothered.

One too many

If you are reading this, chances are you own an account on a networking site. There are hundreds of them; they have crept into our daily life. Think about it, fifteen years ago, say round 1997, there was no such thing as a site where you could see what your friends half-way across the world were doing (Ok maybe there was but only the army, hackers and computer geniuses were privy to them). The closest you got was sending a personalized e-mail with a picture that took 5 to 10 minutes to load, if you were lucky enough to have an email that was capable of sustaining the picture containing more than 2 MB’s of data.

Very few people live nowadays without being wired up to the www. Take a trip on public transportation in a big city, and I can guarantee, that at least 60% of the people around you are busily tapping away at their PDA’s. Social networking media has become (like e-mail, Wikipedia and YouTube) indispensible and is more and more present in everyday life. But where do you start, there are so many networking sites to choose from, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Hyves, Hi5, Netlog, Windows Live, Yahoo Groups, MySpace… which one do you pick, where on earth do you start?

I have a personal networking site account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, Hyves, Hi5, Netlog (and a few others that I can’t remember at the moment.) I even had an account on Ringo.nl (up until the site shut down). I have all these accounts, not because I think it is really cool to have one in every site I get invited to (though I do), but because that’s how networking sites evolved. Suddenly, there were so many to choose from, I got invited to them, waited for one to become the most popular and then use that one most of the time. It turns out that even though a lot of my friends use Hi5 or Hyves, most have a Facebook account. So, Facebook it is. As for jobs and work related networking I use LinkedIn. I log in from time to time to all the others, just to see if they still exist.

Tweeterer

Now that everyone’s decided Facebook was where you might find most of the people who have a networking account, I thought I didn’t need anything else (except of course LinkedIn for work purposes). But along came Twitter. To tell you the truth, I had no intention of really using Twitter. I was already have trouble finding something to put on the subject line on Facebook, so, how was I suppose to come up with something to say on Twitter?

I’ve had an account on Twitter for a couple of years now, which was usually empty, not even a profile description. Then while we were setting up the blog and future magazine, it was with slight trepidation that I entered the world of the Tweeterers, commonly known as Tweeters. All the experts (and by experts I mean the first hits on Google when you type ‘tips on how to attract people to your site’) say that if you want people to know about your blog, Facebook and Twitter are not only recommended, but indispensable.

This is how I overcame my Balbutiophoblia

(Balbutiophoblia, the phobia of tweeting)

I had the feeling that with each networking site I was spreading myself thinner and thinner, loosing myself in the virtual space, then I read “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy” in the New York Times. It changed my perspective on New Media forever (I feel the need to put ‘forever’ after I put ‘changed my perspective’ even when it’s not really like that). Where earlier I felt little parts of me disappearing into computer code (like the green code that flowed on the computer screens in The Matrix), now I realize that it is just one more way of socializing, of finding friends and of not loosing touch with the people you know.

When I moved to Holland (way back in 2000) the only way I could stay in touch with my friends ‘back-home’ was by e-mail and ICQ (If you don’t know what ICQ is, it was an instant message board that said ‘oh-oh’every time you got a message from someone). Nowadays, Skype has replaced ICQ , where I can now actually see my friends. And Facebook has almost replaced e-mailing. Not that I don’t send them messages or just substitute seeing their pictures for real contact, but contact this way is more organic.

Facebook and Twitter, knowing an intweeting

How exactly is this electronic virtual environment, organic?

Networking becomes a bustle and murmur of information, where you get to pick and choose what you listen to. A friend does not need to see you to tell you something important in their life has happened, they post it on Facebook and you comment on the Facebook status. I know that it seems kind of impersonal and cold, but imagine that you have a friend who lives in Iceland and you live in Tierra del Fuego. You have not seen each other in years, but you are both avid Facebook subjecters and tweeters. You also read each other’s post regularly and perhaps press the ‘like’ button or comment on posts. You then decide to meet up (because you have a conference in Iceland, or something) and discover that instead of having to catch up on each other’s lives and feeling a bit awkward, you are both friends that know all about each other’s lives, all the ins and outs. You are still virtual friends, and when you meet up you are just as good friends as on Facebook.

Now imagine this with all of your friends, all the friends you ever had, all those friends you haven’t seen or would have otherwise lost contact with. Starting to seem less of a weird idea? Maybe, but what about my privacy, you say? Well, if you live, work and in anyway use computers for any transaction, it’s quite probable that most of the things in your life could be inferred by a bit of Google stalking.

Think of it this way, it might be easier today to find out where you live or find your telephone number. Before Internet, you could do the same thing by looking in the yellow pages or by phoning information. Really, it is not that different. It just seems easier, because, whereas before you had to do a little more physical work to get information, now it’s at your fingertips.

Internet has not really made the impossible possible. It has just made what was already possible, easier and faster. It is easier to keep in touch through networking sites. You might even change your mind about people you thought you knew, but now know even better through their posts on Twitter or Facebook.

So, networking sites let me contact people that I’d thought I’d never meet again, such as friends from primary school or people I meet at parties. And it’s really fun to see what all these people are doing. I have a friend who posts funny jokes, while another ones has really witty anecdotes, yet another friend who finds the weirdest and most informative sites, and someone who posts YouTube videos I’d probably never find on my own, and … well, you get the picture. But these sites are not only good for hearing fun stuff or seeing cool videos. I get to know what my friends are up to while I’m informed of their day-to-day life in just minutes, and without even moving out of my chair. But, don’t get me wrong, I still love to call up friends and chat with them for hours on the phone or on Skype. I also go out for coffee and catch up. I just get to find out more about the people I’m interested in, even when I have no time to see/phone/Skype/sms/ them.

Staying connected

While some people are brilliant on Facebook or Twitter. I sometimes feel like I have absolutely nothing to say. This is more or less the process behind my spending hours trying to come up with a subject:

-‘What are you doing?’ says the Facebook subject line,

Well, lets see, I’m on Facebook reading Facebook posts, links and pictures… but isn’t everyone doing the same? A bit redundant don’t you think? To post the same thing over and over again. Obviously I shouldn’t take the suggestion (‘what are you doing?’) literally. Maybe what it really means to ask  is “what’s new in your life?” Got it? Hmmm….

-I write, ‘I got into a fight with my mom, she doesn’t get me.’

But wait a moment, this is not really something I want everyone to know, especially not my family (yes, I have my family as friends on Facebook, they all live so far away I like to know about them, plus I like my family), or my colleagues from work, or come to think of it, no one really needs to know this. So I delete.

-‘I’m planning on making a soufflé,’ I write.

That’s not bad, maybe I’ll post that, but wait…who would be interested whether I decide to make a soufflé or not? Delete

-‘I’m writing a blog post, read it on Cecile’s Writers.’

Perfect, that’s it!!! (Three exclamation points! I am addicted to them, they are worse than smilies ;-). I press Enter.

Done!

Then all I end up having on Facebook are my posts ;-(. Seriously, I’m a writer; can’t I come up with anything else? Sure: “I just wrote a new post!”

But that’s ok, too. Even updating my profile picture or sharing the Cecile’s Writer’s Blog links is enough to keep my friends and family informed about my life. (See, they read this, and know what I’ve been up to). Besides, if they want to know more, they can always contact me or we could go out for a nice cup of coffee.

C U on Twitter and Facebook,

Sofia

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