November 18, 2007

Social Networking

Warning: I am about to reveal my ignorance. Many would say it is not for the first time.

Do you remember the old AT&T phone commercials with “reach out and touch someone?” They were trying to get us to use our telephones more and the add was effective. I am expecting that any day now the “new” AT&T will come out with an ad with the tag line “reach out and touch everyone constantly.” Because that is where the world is heading.

Ease of communication has exploded with the cell phone and the internet. And now the internet is available on your cell phone, so that the world is with you at all times, if you want it to be.

I remember back in the olden days when the new ability to send and receive an email was very exciting. I liked that type of communication better than the telephone. I could pause and consider, maybe for a day, before answering. The interaction was in my control and on my terms.

But the old email was not good enough for many people. AOL began an online “buddy” system. AOL would inform you when your buddy was online and you could exchange emails your buddy. It was closer to real time connection. I never wanted to be anyone’s buddy.

Next came IM, or instant messaging. I have never done IM. All I know is that school kids did it constantly when they were suppose to be doing their homework. And there were chat rooms. All of this let people stay in touch with their friends.

And cell phones became more and more prevalent. And minutes became cheaper and more available so people used them more. And don’t forget text messaging. That’s where you tediously type short messages to others on your cell phone – not unlike the buddy system.

A new term, “social networking” was born. More modern online versions of social networking include Facebook and MySpace. I actually am a member of MySpace so that I can get announcements about my son’s band. I don’t use it for any thing else. Once in awhile I get emails through MySpace from young women who will be in my area soon and want to meet me. I think that they are probably selling Girl Scout cookies.

Lately social networking has gone mobile. You can now keep up with all of your friends or network from your mobile phone. You can even track where they are. One service will let you receive real time restaurant reviews with pictures from your friends and tell you whether they are in the restaurant or on the street outside. That is how good the locating service is. You can walk around and know the locations of all of your friends who want to be known. And they can always find you. You can always be in touch

I suppose all of this is wonderful, but I don’t know why. Why would I want people to know where I am? Why would I want them to be able to get in touch with me instantly? Why would I want to look at their pictures? I just barely tolerate talking to people on the phone. Why would I submit myself to all these other invasions of privacy?

I am missing something here. Millions of people are making use of the new social networking technology. My son sends 3000 text messages per month! To whom? About what? I just don’t get it.

And what does that say about me? It says that I am a crotchety, old, boring, introverted loner. This new technology is not being built for me. I am not the prime demographic here. Yes, I am missing something. But am I missing out?

Please, let me know what is going on here.

No comments: