Social networking – What do we actually use it for?

So, before I get a torrent of abuse from this one, I’d like to point out that I am a user of social networking. I use both twitter and facebook to some extent, mainly to promote my book and blog. Though recently I have been wondering about the real use of social networking. Granted we can stay in touch and find old friends that we maybe haven’t spoken to in a number of years, but is this what we use it for primarily?

For me, I find myself using twitter much in the same way that I used podcasts and videocasts like Shot of Jaq, Hak5, Lugradio and the Network Security Podcast; to gain information. Usually to find out about cool things which I haven’t stumbled across yet. Recently Stuart mentioned DeVeDe on SoJ, and I immediately downloaded and tried it. It turned out to be the first DVD authoring package I have found for Linux that actually did what it said on the tin. Consequently I now have a limited edition iso image of all the pr0g80X.vid episodes. Thanks Stuart!

Occasionally I use social networking to comment on something someone else has said but even then, only really if it’s of particular relevance to me. I’ve begun to liken twitter to an RSS feed. Yes, yes, I know it’s called microblogging, but the majority of the tweets I receive from people, or are “subscribed” to, all have links attached to them. For me, this puts it firmly in the glorified RSS pen, the only difference between the two being that with twitter, I am able to interact with the poster in ways previously unrealised.

The same with facebook to a large extent. I find myself in one of two modes here. The first is looking for how friends and relatives are doing, the second is looking for useful links and bits of information. Though twitter seems to get a bad name for having large amounts of bilge spilling out of it, I often find that I get more information from twitter than I do facebook. This could be down to many reasons, from the company I keep, the effort I put in to each “site” and even the demographics of each service.

I tend to find the people on twitter are more technically inclined, though that observation may not be echoed by others reading this. People seem to start off on facebook, with status updates and then get dragged into twitter after a certain level of experience.

For some people, social networking appears to me to be a constant streaming dosage of gossip. I would go as far to call it the Internet’s Reality TV. I have seen numerous comments by people who begin by moaning about person X, only to be attacked back by person Y, because person X is actually a “really good friend”. Surely this can’t be the only thing people are using this technology for?

So my question goes out to you all, just what do you use social networking for? Is it to keep in touch with people, to promote a product or service, or merely to gain information? Let me know……

  1. Personally, I find that all social media is as you’ve described. However, I feel Twitter can be (at the best of times) the exception to the rule. As a user, I find that Twitter is much akin to RSS in that it’s rapidly flowing data. The benefit being that it is more real-time. Also, thanks to hashtags and search you can use it in ways that RSS lacks to gauge public discourse, opinion, etc. I always find out information quicker via Twitter than RSS despite being a complete feed-whore.

    Also, Twitter is a gift to the lazy or the easily distracted. I’ve tried blogging before, and I also administer a web forum, but the problems with each is that they can be too time consuming. As I’m sure you are aware from both blogging and video production, it can be hard to get exactly the finished product you want. Even when this quality level is achieved you’ve sunk far more time into it that you anticipated, and even then you have to deal with the inevitable issues of internet trolls, misinterpretation of your points, etc. You can of course make corrections, and clarify points in comments once you’ve noticed them. With Twitter, it feels more akin to a conversation that the call and response feel of a blog. You get immediate feedback, and can issue responses with equal immediacy. I’m not constrained waiting for enough content to post, nor am I bound to a particular theme or tone. I can merely issue whatever stream-of-conscious nonsense pops into my head with not worries about time investment. And the retweeting concept just adds further to the simplicity of every blogger’s inclination to collate data.

    Twitter’s strength also comes from it’s ability to link traditionally inaccessible individuals directly to fans and critics alike without middle-man interferance. It’s nice to chat with Kevin Smith, Grant Imahara, or Levar Burton like a regular human being. While techincally this was possible pre-twitter, it certainly seems to have given rise to a new age of direct PR and honesty in an age of image and illusion.

    Forgive me if this comes across a bit rambling. I’m in a spot of hurry and jotted this in quickly with lil forthough. Much liek a tweet. Cheers, mate.

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