Most people invest a lot of time and effort in social networking. Virtual socializing has almost replaced actual socializing. For people who are shy and introverted like myself, it is much easier to share stories and news on my wall. The social networks make it also very easy to wish people well on their birthday (rather than diarise and try to remember it ahead of time), it is also no effort at all to congratulate social network friends on their successes or send them well-meaning words when they advertise a failure or difficulty. I know many people who have sworn off social networking because they feel it infringes on their privacy. They think, and rightly so, that they have no control over the information they share with the world. Once you write a word or a statement it will be out there, whether you delete it, or close your whole social network account, it will remain accessible to someone out there, and is therefore bound to haunt you for the rest of your life. If you think conspiracy theory and big brother, you are going to have a huge problem with this idea. However, if you think human accountability, responsibility, and standing up for consequences, you will be able to breathe a little easier.
Personally, I find social networks hugely useful. They connect me to members of my family whom I am unlikely to meet anywhere else. The last time I visited my birth country was ten years ago, and I am unlikely to visit anytime soon. My other friends in South Africa, I see once I year at most and it is wonderful to be able to see the events of their lives on a daily basis. I see the pictures of their growing children and follow them on their vacations, when the great distance prevents me from keeping closely with them. I have no qualms about posting my own pictures, comments and ideas on a social network either. I feel it is one way of communicating with friends across great distances. The great success of social networking shows that it has filled a great need to communicate between people. This came of course with some disadvantages, I hinted at earlier. They are a poor substitute for actual face-to-face socializing, they perversely encourage people to become anti-social, for example it is easier to write a message on friend’s wall (and I mean here a friend in the old-fashioned sense) instead of picking up the phone and talking to them. They have also diluted the old-fashioned meaning of the word friend until it became synonymous with somebody you met once at a cocktail party. Finally, they simply produce too much information, which places pressure on our time. Once you are aware of these negative aspects, however, you can target them specifically with remedies. For example, give actual, not virtual, time to your real friends. Regularly cull friends with whom you are unlikely to cross path with ever again. Exercise your own rules in your own personal space to limit the amount of time wasted on social networks, and limit your interests to things you really want to know about, and to as little products and services (advertising) as possible.
Social Networks are in the end a business, and the members are potential capital, so the more time you spend interacting with them the more likely you are to buy something from them or from one of their partners or advertisers. You have to balance the benefits you get from them against the time and effort you invest. It is no surprise that in their quest for larger chunks of your time these networks make it increasingly easier to share, connect and communicate with other. The most famous social network is constantly evolving and upgrading. Giving users more and more ways to build a profile, that is now almost indistinguishable from a blog. I cannot think of anything I can do on this blog that I cannot do on my social networking “site”. With the added advantage that on the social network I already have a built-in audience in the form of my social network friends. During the past year, as I experienced a hiatus in my blogging enthusiasm I wondered whether sharing through social networking had something to do with it, and until now I am not clear on this in my own mind.
What is your view of this phenomenon? Do you think the blurred boundaries between social networking and blogging are positive or negative? Will blogging survive and evolve through this, or will it be in the end one application or function of social networking? I am curious to find out.