Monday, February 18, 2008

Are we teaching open social networking?

Another discussion in the open!

The NY Times recently hosted/posted Is MySpace Good for Society? A Freakonomics Quorum - Freakonomics - Opinion - New York Times Blog: "Has social networking technology (blog-friendly phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) made us better or worse off as a society, either from an economic, psychological, or sociological perspective?"

A collection of thought leaders (Martin Baily, Danah Boyd, Steve Chazin, Judith Donath, Nicole Ellison, and William Reader) responded with some pretty insightful ideas, and there has been much discussion in follow up.

As note in my comment there, I see a tendency toward focusing on specific social networking sites. This limits the ability to examine and understand the phenomenon. MySpace replaced Friendster as the leader by offering what we the people demanded, and Facebook, LinkedIn, and others are trying to (and succeeding in their efforts to) redefine the space. The collection of people we relate to and incorporation of communication tools are the keys to success in this space, not “the site.”

These sites may not last forever, but we have always been engaged in social networking — now supported by technology. The top 5 SN sites could crash and burn tomorrow and we would still do what we do. It’s a revolution, and it’s here, now. Let’s usher in The Relationship Economy!

In response to the Freakonomics Quorum, Paul Glazowski has a recommendation for parents: teach kids (as well as yourselves) as much as possible about any and all networks. He observes that though a percentage of Web users find them useless, redundant, and banal, tens of millions have found such services to expedite tasks - for work or personal purposes - and essentially streamline their lives significantly. There is, after all, something important to saving time and energy.

I think the presumption is that parents know what networking is all about. I'm not so sure that they do! Today's younger (and many older) networkers often connect just to connect. Where did they learn that from? Is it possible that a parent would sit down and explain why everyone at their office came over last night for a dinner when all that parent does when they come home from work is complain about everyone they work with? Do we really think that kids understand (or care) why their folks stop at some chamber of commerce mixer after work?

I think we have to assume that people connect 'cause they think it's the right thing to do, but many have no idea why.
What do you think?

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