Friday, January 04, 2008

Everything I need to know about Social Networking I can get from my Dog!

I just realized that my dog's approach to social networking isn't all that different from the approach my kids take (or I take, for that matter).

It's funny how sometimes certain people or things can trigger a thought in your mind about something you weren't even thinking about. My dog doesn't usually do this, so I'm not sure how I feel about it . . .

Here's what I know about my kids and their social networking strategy:
My kids (two teenage boys). approach social network development like this. They meet people wherever they go (school, church, work, downtown, online) and determine whether they like, really like, or really, really like them). In all cases, they add them as a friend to their profile. They exchange comments on each other's walls, send messages, and periodically talk with each other on the phone. They plan get-togethers, coordinate event attendance, and probably even discuss schoolwork in these area.

Sometimes they go online just to be sociable. They log on to their social network of choice, see who is online, check their messages, see who has made new posts, make some comments on new pictures, and send a couple of messages. Often, they will engage in full-blown communications.

Every once in a while, I'll notice that they made a general post encouraging others to "say something." They may do this a couple times, and if no response is received, they'll go about doing something else.

If no one is there to talk, the time they spend on the site is limited. The difference between having 5 or 6 people to communicate with in real time and posting a few asynchronous messages is huge. I wonder if the advertisers who target these groups pay more during the times when more teens are online and engaging in conversation. Shouldn't advertising at 2AM local time be cheaper than advertising during the social networking rush hour?

Here's what I know about my social networking strategy:
I use my social network (strewn across a variety of sites and venues) for personal and professional reasons. I have a diverse group of friends and acquaintances, and always look for new people to connect to (and established relationships to strengthen). In order to do this, I realize that not every one I meet will be a "quality" relationship.

I meet people wherever I go (school, church, work, downtown, online) and determine whether I have something in common with these people. In many cases, I will add them as a friend or contact on one of the sites I use. I will exchange comments, send messages, and periodically talk with them on the phone. We may plan get-togethers, coordinate event attendance, and even discuss business opportunities.

Sometimes I go online just to be sociable. I log on to one of my social networks, see who is online, check messages, see who has made new posts, make some comments on new pictures, and send a couple of messages. If no has posted any comments, added me as a contact, or posted or responded to public questions, the time I spend on the site is limited. There's only so much you can do with a stagnant website, after all, so it's pretty easy to hit it, make a few posts, and leave. Thankfully, I have other things to do, or I would have to read a book or something.

I don't think that my strategy is all that different from that of my kids . . .

Here's what I know about my dog and her social networking strategy:
My dog is spoiled. She gets a walk from her humans at least once a day. I participate in at least one of these excursions, and they usually last around fifteen minutes. We either walk around the block or venture into the park that is located not far from our house (adjoining our neighborhood). Each of these walks lasts about 15 minutes.

My dog has three purposes on her walks. First, she goes on walks to get exercise. It takes a lot out of a dog to lounge around the house all day and all night, and her body needs to experience some anaerobic exercise. Second, she needs to meet other dogs (and sometimes cats). She usually spends a few minutes sniffing the other dog (I won't be describing this process), and sometimes even speaks to them. If she is unable to actually meet them, she senses their presence based on odors they have left behind. Third, she leaves her own odors behind.

In between lounging around in the house and walking, my dog frequently gets us to let her outside. If she is going for the extended version, we'll let her out the back door on the first floor, sometimes hooking her collar up to the wire that extends across the width of our property. In any case, she usually engages in a modified version of her walking activity -- exercise, meeting other dogs, and leaving her odor in strategic locations. If she is upstairs, she will have us open the door to the upstairs deck so she can get a birds eye view of the area out back. That's where she was just moments ago when I had this revelation. She walked out on the deck, looked around, and let out a couple of barks. She usually receives 3-4 responses, and may even look to see if she can identify the location (she already knows all her friends by their voices, and she has matched voices to odors in many cases). Today, she walked out on the deck, barked, heard no response, and immediately signaled me to open the door again. I guess she realized that none of her friends were online. This observation was probably accompanied by a serious chill in her bones (it's relatively cold outside).

So for my dog, going outside is like going online. She is able to do it several times a day, and sometimes has the opportunity to engage in real-time chat. Sometimes, she just sniffs around the profile pages of other dogs. Other times, she leaves a wall post or comment (which may need to be cleaned up) for others to respond to. Inevitably, her time "online" is a more rich experience when other dogs are around.

All for now, my dog wants to check her social network again.

What do you think?

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