Social networking: Out with the old, in with the new?


I got to thinkin’….

With Facebook touting 500,000,000 active users (Is that enough zeros?), is it positioning itself to replace the Social Security numbering system? We all have ID’s, so instead of a number, how about our Facebook profile address instead? It seems more user-friendly; but we won’t talk about the security issues. Then again, just how secure is the Social Security system? Out with the old, in with the new.

The buzzword-of-the-day, of course, is social networking. Funny how that works. We’ve always had social networking, we’ve always done it. We’re social animals at heart. No man is an island, so they say. But now it means setting up a Facebook account and friending a bunch of people that you’re not likely to encounter in your day-to-day life. You know, that part of life that entails eating, sleeping, going to work, paying bills, talking to people face-to-face, etc. Is that a good thing?

I haven’t decided yet.

From my own perspective, I’ve come up with a few pros and cons:

  • I’ve always loved to write. I think it comes from loving to read. I’ll write before I attempt to address anything remotely complex out loud. The con to that is, once I’ve written something down, I usually forget it. Oops.

  • The process of writing forces your thought process to behave. That exercise is great practice for taming that motor mouth of mine. You know, the one that rattles on before thinking. The perk is that I now have a much better taste in my mouth since my foot doesn’t end up there quite so often.

  • Maybe, just maybe, my social skills are improving a little bit. I’ve never been one for small talk. I don’t have the mind for it. Besides, I might as well get something out of my graduate education and actually use some of the big words I learned. With that crappy attitude, it’s no wonder my social skills suck. So, coming up with small talk – both in content and in length – I’m adapting to addressing “What’s on your mind?” a little more every day.

  • I’ve “re-connected” with more than a few people from my distant past through Facebook. In a way, that’s eerie. It’s like the past will never truly fade. That’s both good and not so good. After learning more of the people from my past, namely once-boyfriends and an ex-husband, I am kicking myself in the behind pretty regularly. They turned into some great people! You see, “people” is plural, meaning I screwed up a lot in my past. Rub my nose in it, why don’t ya?

  • I go to work and come home. That’s my life in a nutshell. I come home to my dogs and go out to visit my horse when I can. That’s my life in a small nutshell. With a mind as relentlessly active as mine, that’s perfect for me. I don’t mind it a bit. Besides, the first thing that I do when I come home is turn on the computer and hit Facebook. You see? I may live by myself, but I am not alone. I read my wall, check to see who’s online, but I don’t often comment or update my status. I’m still not good at that small talk stuff. But I do enjoy seeing those tiny photos of some of my favorite people in my sidebar.
I don’t see myself as a good representative example of the general population using Facebook, or any other social networking service. Not by a long shot. Research has yet to figure out how to study the effects of this online phenomenon. Scientists have yet to figure out which questions to ask, and since it’s all happening so fast, we won’t know for quite awhile just what the impact this online, asynchronous, distant, superficial means of “social networking” will have. If I recall, the one thing science has decided is that people are more likely to represent their true selves online instead of trying to be someone or some thing that they are not. My fingers are crossed that it means we are becoming more accepting of each other.

In the end, we may all land on a relatively “safe” surface. Or we may land on a jagged edge and impale ourselves mercilessly. The jury is still out. Still, I think I like the idea of doing away with those clunky Social Security numbers. Wouldn’t it be a nice way to look at each other more as people instead of numbers? Does Facebook do that?

So, how has social networking become a part of your life?
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