I love the social network sites, truly I do. I have met some truly incredible people there, ones that I had no hope of meeting in "real" life. Some are passing acquaintances, others are becoming fast friends. Between blogs, MySpace, Facebook, forums, and now Twitter, the opportunities are amazing. I've conversed with CEO's, assistant district attorneys, renowned intellectuals, journalists, experts in various fields and all kinds of wonderful "ordinary" folk. Am I going to give this up? No way!
I can also keep track of people I already know so much easier. How else could I watch my niece growing up from 3000 miles away, give or take a few hundred? Or read the out-of-town newsclippings about my various offspring?
But there's a downside to all this connectedness. You've probably all heard about the fellow on Twitter who lost his job before he even started. Or the fact that human resource personnel will often check out your Facebook profiles before even making the offer. On a more personal level, I suspect my kids had mixed feelings when they got my friend requests on Facebook and I was more than a little bemused to find my own mother had got there before me. Not that I mind. But there's no way I can tell her I was busy with X, Y, and Z if she can see my status updates there, now can I? (Just FYI, I don't lie to my mother... She reads my blog too.)
My isolated semi-suburban existence is taking on some of the quality of village life. The support is there: I can launch a prayer request and have friends and churches from Georgia to Australia praying for me. One of my online friends had his house burn down and with a couple of days his cyberfriends organized a blog accepting donations for the rebuilding. So many of us rallied to his cause that it attracted newspaper interest.
On Jessica Faust's blog, it is becoming rather evident that a lot of aspiring authors are having a hard time squaring literary agents' claims that they are too swamped with work to respond promptly with the fact that some of them spend a lot of time posting their thoughts on Twitter. They like even less what some of those thoughts have been. That was yet another cyberstorm that made its way into the mainstream media. For the record, I think a lot of those complaints are unreasonable, but not all of them. In any event, agents are also discovering that they have to weigh carefully how they express themselves online. Online communities are displaying that other characteristic of village life - you can't set a foot outside without all the neighbours knowing.
I myself am becoming a little more circumspect. I had a rather strange thing happen to me recently which I can't tell you about. I'm becoming all too aware of who might be watching. No, it wasn't anything bad or creepy or shameful, just yet another thing to make me realize my voice could carry further than I think.
So now I'm curious. As this realization sinks in, will we see a withdrawal from the social media? Will people prefer to abandon them for the sake of greater privacy? Or will we learn to live with greater transparency, too smitten with the advantages of connectedness to give it all up? Will we become like the inhabitants of real villages, constantly aware of the eyes on our back, reflexively close-mouthed, yet often comforted by that constant presence?
Are your habits changing?
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