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The Second Half: Social networking in the second half

April 7, 2010

By Kathleen D. Tresemer
Columnist

I am generally not that social. Don’t get me wrong…I can socialize with the best of them, and engaging in a great conversation will ward off boredom for weeks. However, I am perfectly satisfied with my own company for long stretches of time. This is a great asset for writers, as we are alone a lot, and people often find our point of view “quirky,” or even downright weird.

My pal Pat describes me as: “…not much of a joiner.” On the other hand, she tells me, “But I think you are changing in your Second Half!”

Changing, eh? This old dog has learned a few new tricks, the first being how to achieve some balance in my social framework. I noticed some years back that isolation was not good for maintaining a broad view of the world—a definite impediment for writers, and a roadblock for personal growth. I decided back then to create a social network that fit within the realm of these areas: expanding my creativity, social responsibility, or intellectual stimulation.

“Kill two birds with one stone,” my dad used to say. Today, we call it, “Multi-tasking!” When it comes to socializing, however, my skill level deteriorates after the initial couple of hours. Honestly, I just wear out!

Back in college and the years after, I always had my own room or apartment—I just needed the “space” to reflect and rejuvenate each day. I didn’t even have a phone for years, declaring, “If people want to see me, they can come over or make plans ahead of time. I don’t need to socialize just because someone is convenient!” I look back on those days of no cell phones with great fondness.

“I’m striving for balance in my Second Half!” I exclaimed.

Creativity, social responsibility and intellectual stimulation: that might seem like a pretty broad net at first glance, but it rules out a whole bunch of things. The most significant of these “Not on the list” social invites comes regularly and annoyingly from the very tool of my trade: my computer. It is the invitations to “join” one of the social networks, like Facebook or MySpace, that I find especially bothersome.

First, I cannot grasp the need for my family to all be on Facebook: “Why do we need Facebook?” I asked, nicely.

“Well, we can all get together there,” my sister, still in her First Half of life, tried to be helpful.

“OK, so why can’t we just e-mail each other?” I asked.

“Well, we post pictures and stories and stuff, so you can go there and see them,” Sister was losing patience.

“We can e-mail those things, right?” I asked.

“For cryin’ out loud!” Sister was done explaining, “When are you going to join the 21st century?!”

I like to think of myself as pretty modern: I write for a Web site developer, I work on a virtual desktop in a virtual office, and I send in my column via the Internet. I’m just “this close” to becoming the Jetsons, if you ask me!

“So why do I need Facebook?” When I ask that question now, friends and family just roll their eyes and look away.

I find it to be much like going to a college bar with a bunch of friends: on the surface, everybody likes everybody. No real connection and the only thing in common is social status, but it feels like belonging. Anyone who says to me, “I have (insert ridiculously huge number) friends on Facebook,” risks my snide retort, “Depends on your definition of a friend.”

According to ReadWriteWeb—self-reported as “the No. 1 information technology blog in the world”—social networking is all the rage. “Social Networking Now More Popular Than E-mail,” by Marshall Kirkpatrick, March 9, 2009, states:

“People prefer the clean, controlled, multimedia and publicly social experience of social networking communication over the relatively open, individualistic and spammy medium of e-mail.” (Check out his research and read this post: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/social_networking_now_more_popular_than_email.php)

I don’t agree—what’s more “spammy” than half a dozen requests to become a “Friend of Jane Doe”? Anyway, I hardly care to read a short “Tweet” about Mary’s parakeet or Jack’s weed removal—if it isn’t important enough to have an actual conversation, IT JUST ISN”T THAT INTERESTING!

I’m pretty old-fashioned, they tell me. I still prefer meeting over coffee or lunch and talking: face-to-face, making eye contact, and maybe even hugging. I have submitted to the Internet and send e-mails regularly, both business and social. But just to show you how cool I am, I have checked out this year’s 20 most popular social networking sites on the Web today. I looked up each site—GAD!—and included what they say about themselves and their function.

Now, you can sound as hip as the youngsters! I recommend slipping a site name into conversation to demonstrate your 21st century cool-ness: “Yesterday, I saw a great video on Multiply …” or “My friends on Ning were discussing health care reform and they said…”

See how easy it is to pretend to be social? Next column I will introduce you to Senior Online Networks—social stimuli just for US!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at kdt-insights@hotmail.com.

20 most popular networking sites

Here’s where they are and here’s what they do:

1. Facebook.com—“connect and share with the people in your life.”

2. MySpace.com—“connecting people through personal expression, content, and culture.”

3. Twitter.com—“…asks ‘What’s happening?’ and makes the answer spread across the globe to millions, immediately.”

4. LinkedIn.com—“…connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”

5. Classmates.com—“find out who got married and who stayed single”

6. Ning.com—“social platform for the world’s interests and passions online.”

7. Bebo.com—“your life online.”

8. Hi5.com—“…delivering a fun, interactive, and immersive social experience online to our users around the world.”

9. Tagged.com—“…to keep in touch with friends and to make new ones.”

10. MyYearBook.com—“…making meeting new people as fun and easy as possible!”

11. Multiply.com—“…for doing more with your media”

12. Friendster.com—“…helps you stay connected with everything that matters to you: friends, family and fun!”

13. Meetup.com—“Do something • Learn something • Share something • Change something…to revitalize local communities and help people around the world self-organize.”

14. BlackPlanet.com—“largest Black community online”

15. GaiaOnline.com—“leading hangout on the Web” for teens

16. Piczo.com—for teens “age 13-18”

17. Orkut.com—“Connect with friends and family using scraps and instant messaging”

18. FotoLog.com—“…fun way to express themselves through online photo diaries or photo blogs”

19. Skyrocket.com—“Free People Network,” an international site

20. Badoo.com—“This is the best place for meeting new people nearby you. Chat, flirt, socialize and have fun!”


From the April 7-13, 2010 issue

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