Archive for the ‘SOCIAL NETWORKING’ Category

Social Networking: A Holiday Wish

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008


Social Networking: Part VII – The Downfall of Grammar & Spelling?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Writinghood has a post this morning bemoaning the loss of good writing skills by way of technological access. While I might agree that a lot of people dont' spell well, use proper capitalization and sentence structure, or bother proofreading, I would suggest that if technology is the problem, the burden of the degeneration of proper writing form is based not on weblogs, but on text messaging, email, and the generation which grew up in this new world of visual communication. And too, I would most assertively take into account that the personality of the user/writer is the most overwhelming influence of all.

"Blogs and Instant Messengers: the Bane of Good Writing Habits" is deceptively simplifying a trend towards less stress on grammar, punctuation and spelling. The majority of people aren't real writers, aren't terrific at good writing, and hate it. It's true that text messaging and limited character space such as what twitter allows encourages stuff such as "w meet u at 3, be :)" but blogs have no such restrictions on space and the majority of folk who keep them up (as opposed to those who drop them after a a few months, or write sporadically with months in between) develop a sense of pride and flow of words that encourages good writing habits. It is my belief that the more one reads and the more one writes, the better one gets at improving one's skills. 

It all comes down to this: if you're going to be a writer, every word you write will be improved by the practice. Twitter and such services, much like poetry, encourage brevity. That's what a serious writer will be aware of in using it. Weblogs will be seen as a showcase of communication.  The serious writer will rise above the medium even while it serves as a great means of social communication for the everyday user.

Social Networking: Part VI – The Ugly or Anonymity Revisited

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

It was bound to happen, the good and bad of the freedom to create a different personality was brought to task in the Lori Drew case, a certainty that things can always be pushed beyond the bounds of original intent to become dangerous. And as always happens, one bad apple spoils the whole lot for the rest of us.

By taking on the identity of a teenage boy, Lori Drew via MySpace harrassed a young girl purportedly to suicide. Now the courts have ruled that she indeed broke the understood contract that users be "truthful and accurate when registering."  But who reads the small print? Of course, one is meant to do so, expected to do so, but it is more often the case that without malicious intent, the majority of users are not truthful even if they do bother to read the agreement in whole. 

Read Write Web has a good post and commentary on this matter, and all we can do is wait and see what happens as a result of the one most serious case of abuse and its effect on the global communities of social networking.

Social Networking: Part V – Participation

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

Referring again to Wikipedia's information on the social networks set up and their reported membership, it appears that something is available for just about every interest. While many of the main organizations are wide open and non-specific, they usually have within the whole a large number of groups or communities formed based on common interests. The larger groups such as Facebook and MySpace boast memberships (at least according to Wikipedia) of 125,000,000 (Facebook) and 245,000,000 (MySpace). Flickster,, Black Planet, are more dedicated to specific topics and still number in the 20-50 million member range.

Some folk are on a number of different networks, but I personally find it more trouble to spread out than to find a single 'home base' even though naturally all the networks can be interlinked so that updating one automatically sends the data to the others.

As soon as one system becomes 'hot' there are any number of widgets and sites that create enhancements or capabilities beyond the orginal. Twitter is one of the most simple and basic systems of communication, yet there have been widgets that enable writing from the desktop, finding out why someone's 'dumped' you (Quitter), and I've just been advised of a means to form groups within the Twitter community.

With us all tied together in this giant spider web city that covers the world, there's bound to be a widely diverse group of folk involved; old and young, artsy, literary, religious, political, moms and teachers and students and teenagers, and . . . weirdos.

The anonymity of the internet leaves itself open to abuse and it comes to a large degree from spammers that leave comments or trackbacks, mainly to gain numbers that I don't truly understand or care to figure out. There are less anonymous commenters to weblogs for example, that aren't looking for followers but rather some form of celebrity by being argumentative or outrageous. This is the price we pay for communication. There are ways around it, but it is an annoyance in any case.

Most users of any social network are there for any number of reasons including sharing information, seeking data, camaraderie, validation, etc., but within each I suspect two things are essential as a force: the story within each of us, and the need to be heard.

Social Networking: The Pros and Cons of Social Networking

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

(This is a duplicate of my original post on Spinning, copied here to keep it with the series)

We've embraced the wonders of the internet, the amazing opportunities
it offers and the world it opens up to every individual with computer
access. We've come a long way from piling into the wagon to drive fifty
miles to Grandma's for a weekend visit. The postal service has improved
since they've been able to use mailtrucks and airplanes instead of
horses and steamships. The telephone added the sense of hearing though
the visual suffered for it. And now the web along with weblogs and twitter and Facebook and a dozen different social networking services limits the dark corners to hide in.

But even the weblog is outdated, I've heard, and it's being suggested that we "pull the plug on blogs": 

The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

If you quit now, you're in good company. Notorious chatterbox Jason Calacanis made millions from his Weblogs network. But he flat-out retired
his own blog in July. "Blogging is simply too big, too impersonal, and
lacks the intimacy that drew me to it," he wrote in his final post.

Now I've likely just hurt someone's feelings by being less than enthusiastic about joining diigo
after sending an email with data to share. I've apologized, and I do
understand the use of diigo (or I'm trying to) as a tool for sharing,
but it seems that while I've breached a certain code of camaraderie in
wanting to pass information to an individual rather than splatter it on
a website, it does take away even that little smidgen of a personal
touch that email manages to cling to.

I'll admit that I'm
eternally grateful to the system, and likely one of the very same type
of person I'm here to complain about. "I'm a writer, I'll send you an
email," I say, often staving off the phone conversation that once was
an important part of my life. Nowadays, there are only a few friends I
talk to via telephone–and that's actual voice-talking, not text
messaging. Once email and weblogs were invented, I figured I'd found my
niche. I've also dabbled in Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Plurk, and now

But there're some drawbacks to the social networking via
the web. It's not something I've done a study on, but I've been getting
the general feeling of a lack of politeness in both the real world and
the semi-real world of the internet. For example, with job postings and
responses done via websites, there are hundreds competing for the same
job, so I do understand that response from a prospective employer would
be more difficult, but these days, an applicant never knows if he's
being considered or got dumped within minutes. Because it's so easy to
avoid responding, this same thing is happening on weblogs, and in the
social networking groups. Just for shits, I've written some outrageous
things on twitter or on a blog (and some deeper, more personal
sharings) and received absolutely no conversation. You know folks have
read it, and yet there's no human reaction as a sign of empathy or
surprise or whatever. While you've made some friends via these means,
the friends that you might ordinarily expect to talk with in person (if
they read your web communications at all), have that option of ignoring
what they read.

How would this play out in person? Would they
silently turn around and walk away? See, social networking on the
internet isn't really very social when you look at it that way.  Here's
another viewpoint, from Don Tennant at ComputerWorld, referring to another article by Kip Layton,
a school administrator in a tiny town in Alaska regarding email and its
effect on handwriing. Don gives us his feelings about snail mail when
his son's computer is down:

People over 35 generally have lovely handwriting. The 25-to-35 age
group has decent handwriting. And the under-25 crowd is a legibility
laughingstock. It's all because of computers. And it's kind of a shame.

(…) I clearly could have written the letters on my computer and printed
them out, but I didn't. I suppose the reason is that I can remember as
a kid getting letters from my mom and dad and noticing their different
styles of handwriting and appreciating that unique personal expression.

I wanted my son to see that same expressiveness and individuality and
personality in my correspondence with him, so I've been writing my
letters to him longhand.

thought of that; I treasure recipes, notes, cards, little papers where
the writing is clearly that of my mother, or my father, or someone else
dear to me. It's not as personal as physical presence, but it's sure a
step above the cold type of an email.

Now maybe I'm just more
bothered by this than most folk, as I'm more the type that have a
precious few close friends and another layer of well, friends, and a
lot of acquaintances so I'm not trying to expand either my presence or
my popularity.  But I see more than just a separate society online.
Frankly, I see the same avoidance of connection, the rudeness, the same
distancing that expands a circle of friends to global yet moves those
one would be in contact with via phone or in person to that same level,
and that same ease of slipping away that the internet allows creeping
into the realities of face to face living. It need not be that way, but
there's a couple of generations now that have been brought up in this
new world of great possibility and possible dehumanization of society. 
And some of us, the ones who notice these things, won't be here to
remember them.

Social Networking: Part IV – The Bad – Politics and Religion

Monday, November 24th, 2008

I'll come back to this, the rough estimates according to Wikipedia of the various internet communities and their membership, but it does give credence to the popularity of social networking. I've personally participated in Facebook, weblogging, twitter, Plerk, and Diigo, as well as a few smaller ones dedicated to literature, writing, computing, etc. Within the larger services, there are often smaller community groups formed for special interest topics and as the two-year presidential campaign gained steam, many were formed of people supporting their candidate, as well as just as many against the other candidate.

I scanned through some of these, reading the mission statements, reading the postings, and checking out some of the members. I quickly dropped out. On the pro candidate there were just as many anti's commenting, and rather rudely. On the anti-candidate forums, there were such ranting and outright ignorance that I was beginning to worry even more about the state of the union based on the populace.

One of the things these communities tend to do is fan the flames which is a good thing when it's a positive glow, but a very nasty situation when the mob mentality is all afire feeding each other's whacked-out ideas. I must admit that as most of the weblogging folk I visit, I tried but didn't succeed in completely keeping away from political statements. And worse, I've dropped following some of the blogs that appeared so far right or left that I began to allow the politics to overcome my formerly high opinions of some of the writers.

There's no reason why a weblog or forum cannot be used as a platform for our ideas; that's part of the social networking allure. We develop an audience and can't resist stepping up to the podium. Oddly enough, I think that in discussions of political or religious nature we're more apt to be true to ourselves on the internet than in reality dealings. The facelessness of the internet grants us a bit of privacy as far as identity, yet we tend to open up to the unknown stranger more easily online. It's almost like making a statement via graffiti.

Within the groups, we find some great assistance and inspiration and support with our interests, but it can just as easily turn into a mob mentality situation when there is no dissention or argument based on alternative knowledge.

Social Networking: Notes

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

Just some notes to myself really, on some of the areas I hope to cover in this series.

How the internet builds a wall locally while establishing a global thoroughfare
The psychology of social networking
Spammers and popularity contests
Honest communication
Sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll
Politics and religion
The online classroom
Freedom of speech
Fresh air
Plagiarism and cheating
The marriage market
Centralization of topical data
The organized communities
How much to reveal/Local vs. Online

Likely I'll be adding and updating as I try to catch the thoughts that swoop on by.  I'd also like to make it clear that this is a non-academic, non-credentialed, non-official, non-funded personal dissertation on the impact of social networking on society, and an opinion of a grass-rooted experience only. Actually, just another spouting off into cyberspace, I suppose. I'll gladly take on other areas if suggested, though I'll likely shy away from heavy research and the more cerebral philosophy of social networking.

Social Networking: Part III – Roleplaying and Popularity

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

Without yet getting into the statistics of how many and who–let's just say there are a lot–subscribes to the various services of online gaming and posting, I've been considering the interaction within groups as well as the individual adjustments one may make in presenting an online personality. Is it so very different than the mental calisthenics we go through just walking out our front door every morning?

From our toddler days onward we learn that behavior must be modified to suit society. Basically I believe that we approach our own molding of beliefs, ideals, goals, and interactive dealings with a conform or rebel attitude on each new event experienced. But even rebels get lonely.

What social networking on the internet allows is a meeting place for that rarity, a mind that matches our own patterns and interests and passions that we don't find in our family circle or schoolmates and co-workers. Very often, the real "you" comes out not in the nine to five cubicle, where in fact the roleplaying is switched on, but rather it is in the private at-home segment of our lives where Sir Lancelot or Dr. Manhattan emerge. With a click of a mouse, we can freely walk in a world without the mask we don in public. And, we can take it as far as we care to expand.

There is a basic human need for companionship and internet-based groups are in such proliferation and diversity that we're bound to find a place to fit in. One of the main reasons for a weblog to go belly-up is the difference between expectations and the reality of visitors to the site. We need to be loved. We seek approval. If we're being true to ourselves on our blogs, it's as hurtful to see non-acceptance or a lack of enthusiasm as not being invited into the circle of the perceived in-crowd of reality. But if the freedom of anonymity online makes us suddenly dare to be terribly witty, erudite, perceptive, or outrageous, and it brings us an audience, well, that's where the heart will linger.

There is a double-edged sword to the creation of an online persona however. Deep down inside we know that our "friends" are either rather easily fooled, or if we're presenting our souls, that these people will never feel the touch of our hand, see our smile (caveat here, since images and video are a part of many services). Or worse, that nobody likes us online either.

Social Networking: Reference to Part I

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Ah, an example. In Part I I stated:

"Nowadays, we can do this so much more easily by internet connections
and in particular, online gaming, creating a persona that is not
inhibited by our own physical limitations, open to whatever our minds
can conceive. Think World of Warcraft, Second Life
where you don't have to be sixty years old, or be overweight or covered
in acne, or a timid mouse that folks push around in reality."

In reading through Brendan's posting on his experience in Second Life, this catches my eye:

"Again I have this Lola complex where your not entirely sure if you’re
even dancing with a female on the other end. I could be dancing with a
45 year old Gacey-like clown over in Wisconsin. No thankyou, even a
virtual avatar has its standards."

Brendan found what he was looking for–though out of curiosity rather than desire–and entered a hypersexed cyber cafe. He is studying this virtual world, learning about the way it works and maybe, maybe getting some idea of the real players behind their avatars. He is correct in thinking that Second Life is pure escapism–the name of the game surely tells us that clearly enough. But can you find peace and happiness in such a world or is it more peopled by the voyeuristic or sadistic and seedy-sided part of human nature? What is the ratio of good guys to bad guys in the virtual world as well as the players who make it up?

I do wonder about the comparison of good and evil in something like Second Life to the real world; are we just as bad except we don't have the telltale outfit to wear?

Man's nature, I believe, is based on survival and his instincts are driven by this "after me comes you" attitude. Luckily in the real world most of us can get by without resorting to our baser natures. We don't punch the idiot who cuts us off in line but fume silently or may try making a comment that won't get us punched in the nose instead. But in Second Life, we can act on our instincts. Is this good? Is it a way to vent harmlessly? Or is it reviving those feelings long controlled through learned response and will these work their way into our real world behavior.

Social Networking: Part II – The Good

Friday, November 21st, 2008

There's no doubt in my internet-reliant mind that social networking has some tremendous benefits to mankind. There's no match to it as far as locating the widest possible array of information and opinion of individuals upon a single focused topic. The ease and accessibility of communication is a matter of minutes rather than hours or days or weeks. Drilling down within a grouping can create a more specific arena for discussion.  Some who would have absolutely no hope of finding what they were seeking have almost limitless opportunity to connect with someone who can help.

I've always felt that the timespan of my parents' lives (Dad: 1911 – 2004; Mom: 1912 – 2002) was one of the most actively advancing eras. Horses became cars became jets; telephones became email; libraries became instantaneous fonts of information online. Never once, in all my long discussions with my Dad about changing times was he ever insistent about "the good old days," but rather he welcomed the technology and was awed by what it provided.

What my Dad did miss, however, was the intimacy of face-to-face dealing with others. He wouldn't go so far–and neither will I–as to bypass the
real live clerks at the supermarket to have his purchases read by a
talking scanner.Even there, he noticed a kind of glassy-eyed response that came close to mimicking the monitor of the "quick-scan" computer "clerk." When I set him up with a computer (at age 90) and explained email, I could see him worrying that his girls wouldn't be calling or coming over as often.

As with all improvements by invention, much is gained, but we'd be fools to believe that something is not as well, lost. The car put an end to horses and farriers and the bond between man and animal (though some Lamborghini owners are known to stroke their cars). The airplane put a serious dent in cross country travel and talking to the guy sitting next to you at some small diner in West Podunk, Indiana. Some of this loss is perfectly acceptable and some of it is lamentable, but change is definitely a cause and effect in itself.

More good: In particular for kids who can talk with their peers and learn new things about cultures directly from a child halfway across the globe. For the elderly, who might have little communication if it weren't for the power of internet groups and places such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Plerk, weblogs, etc. and to a greater degree, email with relatives in this more scattered family society. Shut-ins, the disabled, the hopelessly shy, the outsider in school; all these have a chance at friendships and sharing interests that would not be as readily available if it were not for networking systems. Who would've thought that some of us might almost envy Bubbleboy? Business networking saves time, money, travel (though you wouldn't know it from the state the corporate world is in.)

I'll get to The Bad and The Ugly eventually, but I might choose to explore the various organized networks online to a better depth to find perhaps some statistics on their use, their growth, and their future.