Social Networking, micro-blogging & lifestreaming?

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A social network service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services. Social networking has encouraged new ways to communicate and share information. Social networking websites are being used regularly by millions of people.

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Micro-blogging is a form of multimedia blogging that allows users to send brief text updates or micromedia such as photos or audio clips and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user. These messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, email, digital audio or the web. The content of a micro-blog differs from a traditional blog in that it is typically smaller in actual size and aggregate file size. A single entry could consist of a single sentence or fragment or an image or a brief, ten second video. But, still, its purpose is similar to that of a traditional blog. Users micro-blog about particular topics that can range from the simple, such as “what one is doing at a given moment,” to the thematic, such as “sports cars,” to business topics, such as particular products. Many micro-blogs provide short commentary on a person-to-person level, share news about a company’s products and services, or provide logs of the events of one’s life.

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Lifestreaming is the practice of collecting an online user’s disjointed online presence in one central location or site. Generally, people’s internet presence are divided among their blogs, social networking sites, bookmarking sites and user-generated content sites (like flickr.com, youtube.com, et al.), and lifestreaming is the act of aggregating it, generally using a third party service that then shows the content in chronological order.

The above definitions come from Wiki pages.

I suppose what I’m really looking for is some help in understanding what the point is of having so many (any) of these websites clogging up the net? What are they for? Why do so many people think they are a good thing? Faced with so much evidence that they indeed ARE a good thing, I’m left with the conclusion that I’m just an old fart, a generation to late for any of this to make sense to me.

I write this about a week after I ‘deactivated’ my Facebook account. The good news is I can activate it again at any time, although the thought that they still hold my details somewhere after I have decided to leave is not something I’m happy about. I joined to see what all the fuss was about and I left without really finding any answers. What Facebook gave me was more emails telling me stuff I didn’t need to know – X did this, Y did that, Z thinks I’d be interested in something or other. If I followed the links I was generally faced with a lot of mundane or insane chattering about nothing of any interest to me. I didn’t feel any closer to the people involved nor did I feel we had ‘socialised’ in any way whatsoever. They took a ‘quiz’ and it turns out that if they were a vegetable they would be a cabbage. I do the same juvenile ‘quiz’ and turns out I’m an artichoke. Where did that get us? I mean other than wasting time and making Facebook a little richer? You can buy 1.96% of the business for only $200 million, apparently. I find that figure staggering – roll on the next dot.com bust!

I’ve never bothered with Twitter although it is hard to avoid hearing about it. I suppose it comes under the heading ‘micro-blog’ which sounds very grand but what kind of socialising can be done in 140 characters? What am I supposed to tell all the people that are glued to my every Twit?

“I just had a dump – now cleaning teeth”

“Traffic’s bad today”

“Going to buy a sandwich”

“Existentialism – who needs it?”

I suppose this is nothing more than “Pimp my SMS!” and this is a generational thing. Kids get through text messages at an alarming rate.

You see, I can see the point (in fact I think it’s almost inevitable that this will exist one day) of having a global directory. A massive database that serves as a kind of enhanced telephone directory where one can insert basic information – name, photo, birthday/year, school, college, work history, interests, countries of residence – stuff from which people who are looking for you, or someone with similar interests and geography, might be able to track you down. That’s a useful tool but it should be limited to simply seek-find and send a short message saying “Hi, it’s me, get in touch on this number / email for X reason.” End of usefulness. It should not go further to provide you with a platform from which you can demonstrate what a plonker you are!

It is nice to hear occasionally from old friends. This has happened to me a few times via LinkedIn, a kind of business version of Facebook, but whilst these communications are nice distractions you have to be honest and admit that if you REALLY wanted to stay in touch with these people, you would have done so at various points over the intervening ten years by keeping their phone number or email handy (or they would have done the same). As it is, neither of you bothered to do that so why should you now be ‘best friends’? Sure, people’s details get lost, they go off the radar, hence the need for a nice simple global directory.

For me, this social networking, micro-blog, lifestream thing smells a bit too much like a Do-It-Yourself reality show. We’d all secretly love to be on Big-Brother but as we’re not we’ll ram our life down everyone’s throats via Facebook, or whatever tool of choice. I just don’t think my day to day life is interesting enough to bother people with it and I don’t think their lives are interesting enough to waste my time either.

I suppose you can argue that this blog is no different but I think it is. There’s certainly an element of showy behaviour in having a blog, or any form of display that is effectively published to the world at large but blogs like this have a few significant differences from the Facebooks and Twitters;

  1. They allow longer, potentially more meaningful discourse.
  2. The tone is set entirely by the blogger as opposed to being influenced by the medium (software) or peers.
  3. They tend to be more inward looking, written for the author’s pleasure rather than an outward facing “look at me!!” display.
  4. They don’t bug you. You have to come here to read in which case it is your choice not my pushiness that brings you here.

I have to say that the poor, very poor, frighteningly poor quality of written word is something that’s been bothering me for a long time now. I’m worried that things like Facebook, Twitter et al are simply lowering the bar even further, making people even sloppier and lazier as regards proper communication than they already are. Not a good thing.

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6 thoughts on “Social Networking, micro-blogging & lifestreaming?

  1. The USA are world champions in telling us what we need to become “young and happy” …a facebook account, a twitter account, a starbucks coffe, a big mac, an I-Pod, and of course 100 credit cards…and all this leads to…just watch the news.

  2. I’m not sure that Twitter necessarily does lower the bar in terms of writing: look at Steven Fry’s entries for example. Being both witty and concise is not easy, cf party games of the ‘summarize War and Peace in a single limerick’ genre.

  3. Hi pino!

    I shall check out Fry’s stuff but aside from a few intellectuals treating the word limit as a game, for the majority of users……. ?

  4. I have to say Twitter baffles me. Facebook is annoying, but a few friends of mine have added photos of new babies and trips abroad etc – so I can understand how they perceive this to be their blog equivalent.

    Twitter however, seems to be a good idea for celebrities who can update ‘followers’ to their next stageshow or the like. Stephen Fry’s is quite amusing, esecially the QI questions he occasionally posts. My questions would be – if I started one, what would I say and who would follow me? A blog is very different, but how many thoughts can you put in a few lines? And how often? Unless you have a lot of time on your hands…

    The funnist one I’ve read belongs to a guy called Richard Madeley – yes, of the Richard & Judy fame.
    http://twitter.com/RichardMadeley

    (makes for amusing reading on the tram)

  5. Please forgive me for I have sinned. (but only with Facebook). AOL is trying to get me to use BEBO since they dumped most of there site (grrrrrr!!) NO way Jose and I don’t text, twitter or tweet. I don’t need for everyone to know what I am doing or where I am. It’s the new generation. This is the only time I’m glad I’m older. :) But all the TV stations are hopping on this the past few weeks and creating “monsters” with tweeting.

  6. The only thing I like on my Facebook is my Vandenberg psots. Awesome if you like underwater fotos. I came to the US on this boat and they just sunk it last Wednesday off the coast of Florida to create a corral reef.

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