I've joined Facebook. I've plunged in. I'm still figuring out what it means.
I've always been fascinated by new inventions, often jumping in on a trend without thinking about it. In high school, I bought four large state-of-the-art Acoustic Research speakers and a quadraphonic system, which surrounded me in music like a thank-you card in a tight envelope. I bought a Betamax VCR before the war of which system would win was decided. I lost there.
I bought a computer in 1982 before anyone else I knew had one. It was a Kaypro. Because of that, I landed a job as an editor at one of the first computer book companies around, Prelude Press. The cover of our The Personal Computer Book, showed a computer with the line, "It's Like a Typewriter, but With a TV." Imagine that.
At some point, though, I stopped jumping into new technology without thinking about things. I'd been hesitant to join social networking such as Facebook. What will it do to me?
My students have been a part of it for years, though. A few years back, students in one of my classes urged me to join MySpace, and I said, "Whatever for?" One young woman immediately gushed, "Oh, it's a great way to hook up with people."
I had to laugh. Our lives were so different. I had no interest in "hooking up," especially as I came to understand what that meant. Students under huge academic pressure didn't have time for committed relationships--brief encounters were good enough. One of the pleasures of marriage and children is not looking for new relationships but enjoying the daily interaction among people you love.
Additionally, I had a hard enough time keeping up with email. Did I need a new responsibility? Last week, though, after my twelfth request to join Facebook by people I like, I joined. I have over 300 friends already.
Many of the postings make absolutely no sense to me, such as one friend who wrote the words "Graham crackers." What the hell is that supposed to mean? He had two responses, one of them being "Key lime pie." I wrote him to ask why he wrote that. He said, "Something I've found is that short food-based status messages get people to reply because they're quick and easy, so they're like a nice palate cleanser once in a while."
My former professor and friend David Scott Milton wrote that for the time he's spent on Facebook and Twitter, he could have probably written another few novels and screenplays. Yikes! That was exactly my worry.
Yet I find social networking fascinating. It's a parfait of people I haven't heard from in years, as well as old friends and new students. A student in my recent English composition class wrote about social networking in her research paper, quoting an expert that said these sites have little to do with reality--they reflect people's personalities by what they passively consume, such as movies and music.
One of the articles she quoted from, here at Volition Mag, says that "Social networking is a façade, and an illusion; it is a haven for the rejected, it is a sanctum for the lonely, and it is a refuge for those who were, rightfully, tossed aside by the original social network called ‘reality'."
Then again, I wonder what's wrong with finding an outlet to push aside loneliness? Heck, what I do, write novels, is all illusion. In illusion we can find truth. What truth, though, is in social networking?
I went to the New York Times and found an article on the health effects of social networking, which said Facebook and other sites won't kill you but too much time at it isn't good for your body or your brain. In the article, pharmacologist Susan Greenberg says, "My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment."
As I've played with it, I see most people write little bits, a sentence or two, and see which people write back. What you write goes onto "The Wall," which is perhaps why a lot of what shows up is not much longer than graffiti. I like to write longer (as you see here), so maybe my personality is different than the average user.
As I thought about personality, I found an article by Ira Wolfe that imagines how four main personality types might react to social networking. The four types he speaks of are based on the work of William Moulton Marston Ph.D., who created a four quadrant behavioral model to examine the behavior of individuals in their environment or within a specific situation. The model is called DISC, which is:
- Dominance - relating to control, power and assertiveness
- Influence - relating to social situations and communication
- Steadiness (submission in Marston's time)- relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness
- Conscientiousness (or caution, compliance in Marston's time) - relating to structure and organization
Wolfe's article shows, for instance, that a Dominant type sees social networking as a competitive environment and a way to control people--which reminds me of a boss I had at a publishing company. The "Influence" people, though, see Facebook as yet another tool to keep in touch.
As I'm writing this, I just received a friend request from my wife, who is in the next room. Ha! That means she's joined Facebook. Isn't life today simply "different"?
Consider our world compared to, say, ten years ago. In the old days, people talking to themselves were considered nuts. Now we have to see if they have Bluetooth.
We used to buy train and movie tickets from people. Now we buy them from machines with instructions as confusing as the manual to our clock radio.
We used to listen to the radio. Now we listen to podcasts.
Our kids used to be glued to the TV. Now they're glued to the TV, Nintendo DS, the Internet, and their cell phones.
Are you comfortable with all this? What does social networking mean to you?
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