Confession time: I’m a social networking dropout from way back. I’ve tried a bunch but have given up on them all, most recently deleting my dormant (and embarrassingly incomplete) MySpace and Friendster accounts. Yet hope springs eternal — I’ve been playing around with LinkedIn and actually kind of like it so far; we’ll see if it sticks.
Kim Dority talks about LinkedIn as a kind of personal branding tool. I wonder — LISjobs.com and this blog both seem more naturally my “brand” than my more impersonal LinkedIn profile, although I’ve connected with new people on LinkedIn and been approached by new “contacts” who may not have approached me over here. I also wonder how people who are active on multiple social networking sites keep from spreading themselves too thin, letting information get out of date, or diluting their brand.
On that note, I also joined Facebook a couple of weeks ago in order to check out a group for scientific/technical/medical library jobs someone suggested adding to LISjobs.com. I didn’t set up a profile, and pretty much forgot I’d created the account until the friend requests started coming in — a couple from people I haven’t talked to in years. My biggest annoyance with Facebook (and all of these sites) lies in the predefined way they want me to identify my “friends.” There’s no category, for instance, that really fits “someone I knew on an online forum a couple of years ago” or “someone whose book I edited” or “someone I’ve exchanged e-mail with over the years.”
I use social software when it makes something I already do easier. Flickr lets me e-mail links to photos to groups of people without painstakingly attaching each to e-mail and worrying about people with slower connections; its social aspect is a nice bonus, but not why I ponied up my $25. Del.icio.us lets me access bookmarks anywhere and use tags instead of folders. Trillian lets me open up a couple of different IM accounts at once. Google Reader lets me skim through a bunch of blogs quickly and see what’s new. I’ve dallied with Furl and been briefly seduced by Shutterfly… I’ve been intrigued by NewsGator and had an extended flirtation with Bloglines… but, in the end, keep coming back to what works for me.
In a recent LJ column, Roy Tennant makes me feel better about my dropout nature by touting value of playing around with technology, just to find out what it’s about — even at the risk of later finding a specific implementation less personally useful. He mentions social networking sites like Tribe and Orkut as one example:
After using them for several months, I decided they weren’t that useful to me and stopped going to them. But now I know what they’re all about and can see why others may find them worthwhile. I’ve also dabbled in Second Life, and although I haven’t visited it in months, at least I can talk about it from some experience. At the moment, I’m trying out Twitter. Time will tell whether I keep using it.
The point is not to be afraid of trying something out to see if it works for you. You can always drop it later if it doesn’t, and then at least you’ll know what your colleagues and library users are talking about.
Via Carnival of the Infosciences #75 over at A Wandering Eyre comes this post on how class shapes social networking sites, talking about danah boyd’s discussion of MySpace v. Facebook. (I’m unclear about the assertion that the military now bans MySpace, as my brother’s page is still active.) It’s an interesting take on how we choose where to network online; at the very least, the types of communities and sites I choose to frequent change over time as my interests, needs, and just plain free time change.