Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Social Networking Arises from the Dust of Neglected Emails

I’ll admit it, I’ve been Facebooking & Twittering lately much more than blogging and emailing. But I'm not alone... In fact, a Nov. 14th Slate.com article (http://slate.com/id/2177969/pagenum/all/#page_start) announced the death of email. The article notes how the up and coming generation instead rely on Instant Messaging, FaceBook/MySpace, Twitter, and so on. These are all social networking (and, in the case of Twitter, microblogging) applications. Often they are mobile phone-based (e.g., on Twitter, you can text message (SMS) your status update) or at least mobile phone-friendly (my FB sends me text messages when someone's posted on my wall, for example).

I'll admit that as I read this article, I felt a flash of recognition – with some embarrassment and anxiety I realized that I’d let my personal Gmail account go for a very, very long time. What about all those folks who’d emailed me & I’d thought – yeah, I’ll get to it – I’ll view it when I get a chance – who’ve been waiting for a reply from me for weeks, possibly months? Instead of looking at that frighteningly neglected email stream, I impatiently await my FB friends' next status update!

I think that my current social networking obsession is also informed by these factors:

  1. I work alone – as in – I am my own department… plus, I work in the basement of another agency’s building and my flex hours don’t fall in line with everyone else’s (yes, I come in later & stay later – the better to screw up servers after hours while no one’s looking). I’m desperate for collegial chatter. It’s easier when it’s online, of course, because I can participate as little or as much as I am able to. Yet even as I watch streams of others’ “tweets” (Twitter parlance for micro-blog postings), I feel reassured that there is a world out there and that somehow I’m a part of it. Man is a social creature after all…
  2. I like the informality and intimacy of FB and Twitter. I like that I can “hear” a little bit of what others are thinking. I also like the instant gratification factor. I want to know what others are up to. It helps me to weed out the influx of information and news coming in – what are my peers thinking about – what do they consider important? [My poor neglected Bloglines account...] Their updates lead me to the latest things or the things I should be interested in.
  3. From a posting perspective, FB and Twitter are far easier than a blog. When I write my blog postings, I feel constrained. I feel like it’s going to take too long. So I neglect doing it altogether. Somehow, in the blog, I don’t feel like I can just give you a link for something I’m looking at online. I feel I have to write a whole post about its bigger meaning – where it fits in the context of library or web technology. And I SHOULD spell-check and revise it for grammar and tone. In FB & Twitter, I don’t bother. Does it lead to too much candidness? Possibly… But it is so much quicker than blogging. And that’s the bottom line for me these days…
  4. Finally - on email - here are the things that have sent me off to social networking instead... I feel like email is a black hole (I know, I'm one to talk given my admission about Gmail). For weeks, months, etc., I await word from my friends and relatives whose only online interest seems to be email. But nothing... or a forwarded joke or chain email with nothing from them personally. It's discouraging. Instead, every listserv I've ever signed up for and been unsuccessful in signing off of - every budget travel website whose news alerts I'd foolishly signed up for (but which I'm afraid somehow of letting go of) - they all fill up my inbox with inanities. Maybe I'll get to them someday, I think. I'll see about those $200 rt tx to Hawaii -- when I get a chance. Then more days and weeks go by. Like a hoarder guilty about the junk in their house, I begin to fear and dread my inbox. It's no longer a mechanism of connection. It seems to represent a kind of emptiness. Because it is now dominated by the inhuman, the generic, rather than by communications directly between me and another person. And where there were communications once, now only guilt for my failure to connect with those other people in my life seems to remain.
Onto a lighter topix - here's what I've been looking at today, in case you're interested - sort of a mini-Twitter/del.icio.us feed from me:


1 comment:

pollyalida said...

Lately I've been banishing all those "$200 to Hawaii" and other such junk mail. And trying not to hoard the other stuff. But now I find myself hoarding things in my rss reader, adding way too much to delicious and the firefox "read it later" extenstion. But at least it's a bit better organized.

Like you, I find the immediacy of chatter on twitter and facebook reassures me that there is life beyond my 4 walls. Virtual colleagues and no danger of catching all their colds! :-)