Thursday, December 9, 2010

Social Networks: What Good Are They?

I received a rather lengthy rant from a colleague stating that they were closing all their social networking accounts (FB, Linkedin and Twitter) because the networks were a waste of time. The person went on to say, that in a time of recession, tax breaks for the wealthy, a dysfunctional federal government and two wars, folk are wasting time, talking about music, art and senseless stuff.  I hear my friend loud and clear. We are indeed in the worse economic and political climate of my life time.  And yes, there's lots of over sharing and senseless banter that goes on with social networking sites. But like most things in the world, there is good and bad, and it's up to individual user to discern what works and doesn't work.

I'd like to offer a different take. I possess a wide array of interests which social and economic matters are an integral part. However, arts, cultural, spiritual uplift are equally important to my functioning as a whole person. The opportunity to interface with people from around the world on a variety of topics, ranging from nuclear disarmament to Nicki Minaj, I find extremely fulfilling. More important, it provides a break from the daily grind of what for me is very difficult economic time.

LinkedIn provides a space for to me to interface with those who I share  similar professional interests. Twitter allows me in 140 characters to get links to news, jobs, music and yes, up to the minute analysis of the RHOA or the BET awards.
Facebook, where I admit, I probably spend more time than I should, provides me with a cornucopia of knowledge on range of topics that feed my all over the place mind. I get spiritual food and uplift from people all of the U.S and some foreign countries.  I'm linked to people and diverse ideas that would take me; a somewhat shy, reserve person, several life times to accomplish in real time.

In my opinion, social networking creates the opportunity for us to move beyond the normative cultural practice made popular at the turn of the century by author, Robert Putnam called, "Bowling Alone". Now I get to come to the playground with a diverse group of people that transcends race, class, gender and national origin in a space that though far from safe, tends to be much more none threatening. I love my FB kin as I have come to call them. I check in on them and they on me, if we're M.I.A for more than a day a two.  We nurture and encourage each other, laugh, cry and celebrate with each other. We are all clear that though this is cyberspace and not everything we read is true or real, our connections are no less valuable.

The long term implications of social networking remains to be seen. However, in the meantime, I will continue to engage. I suggest to my friend not to disconnect, but much like in the real world, be more selective about the kinds of friends he/she surrounds themselves with.

Just my two cents.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice. I pretty much agree with you, and I personally spend my time using the social networks for the same purposes.