Friday, March 27, 2009

A note about social networking

I think I've made it clear before, I don't much care for the execution of social networking as it exists today (the concept is great, the execution leaves much to be desired).

However, I like people (as content; and in some cases... many cases in fact... social networks have become the primary content delivery vehicle, for people I want content from.

So I am reluctantly a member of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (a hybrid social/professional network).

I don't use twitter for "microblogging" as is often (rightly) derided in media; I primarily use it to share links, spread my own posts on my real blog arround, and follow other peoples content.

I barely use facebook at all; but a bunch of my friends and relatives do, and pester me if I don't update.

Just because I know I'll get the question, I'm @chrisbyrne on twitter (I knew twitter was going to be big and snagged it so that I wouldnt get stuck with something else); and my facebook entry is under the same email I use in comments.

As I'm participating in these social networks for their utility to me, not for press or popularity etc... I have a personal policy about adding network members.

I only friend, follow, or link to:
  1. People that I am actually friends, or friendly acquaintenances with (either in person, or over the net)
  2. Relatives
  3. Co-workers and former co-workers
  4. Colleagues I know well
  5. People, companies, and web sites whose content I want to read regularly
I do not followback, I do not friendback, I do not linkback; or at least not automatically. If I follow/friend/link you its for one of the reasons above.

I'm not looking for followers or friends randomly, and I don't promiscuously follow or friend.

If however you follow/friend/link me, and you are one of the above who I just hadn't added yet, or I didn't know was using the network; or if you are someone who I didn't know about whose stuff I like; I'm right there with the followthingy.

That is what I use these networks for after all. It's about building relationships, and content discovery. I have to say in the three years or so I've been using social networks, they have been great for that. I've been introduced to many people, and lots of content I wouldn't otherwise have seen.

Not only that, but I find my level of participation in the discourse these folks are having is hugely increased. I now tweet back and forth every day with a number of my favorite writers, authors, pop culture figures, politicians, and of course my friends. I get a better understnading of, and stronger connection with those people; and they with me.

Yes, to someone who doesn't use these technologies, it may seem ridiculous; and for many people and in many ways, it is. In the last few months though, I've had useful, meaningful, interesting, funny conversations with dozens of people I would never otherwise have had the chance to interact with directly.

This is how these networks were originally intended to be used. Unfortunately but inevitably given human nature; very rapidly, a culture of automatic promiscous friendbacks/followbacks/linkbanks, in a competition for total numbers of connections, has developed.

Yeah... not my thing guys. I'll leave the popularity contest to other people, and concentrate on building a network I actually want to be a part of.