Monday, May 4, 2009

social networking in modern times: or, what happens when your folks join facebook

A couple weeks ago, my roommate was lamenting that her mother had joined MySpace. Worsesaid my roommate, she wants to friend me. I'm going to have to reject her. I don't want to be friends with my mom on MySpace.

Years ago, employers were apt to fire people for talking about work on social networking sites such as MySpace. Today, for better or worse, your boss is more apt to be signing up for such sites. So are Mom and Dad. And underage siblings.

I keep tabs on my mother, aunts and little brothers via Facebook, and though none of them read my blog they could certainly find it with little difficulty. Yes, there are all sorts of awkward negotiations that go along with this kind of family sharing. My mother tends to ask me what Every Single Status Update means.

While my mother employs Facebook primarily for its social uses, she also uses LinkedIn, the business-oriented networking site that allows you to "tag" personal and professional connections, and recommend past employees. LinkedIn is refreshingly professional, a form of social networking that's focused on sharing less, not more. Or rather, on sharing only job-specific accomplishments.

Recently I accepted a consulting gig from an older gentleman (78, to be precise) looking to take advantage of social networking for his business. He asked if he should join LinkedIn. Then Facebook. Then Twitter. When I mentioned MySpace, he said sure, why not? If it's valuable

I almost wanted to laugh...I'd spent maybe fifteen hours with this man and knew he'd either be really frustrated by Twitter or incredibly, exhaustedly addicted to it. Then, seriously, I told him he should only join LinkedIn, and Facebook if he wanted to keep in touch with far-flung relatives or colleagues.

More and more, it will be people my age and younger inviting people past a certain age into the technological wilderness of blogging, social networking, and new-media marketing. Inasmuch as we may owe it to them (to anyone, really) to give them skills they'll find useful, what specifically should we be teaching them? Should we make the judgment over what we think they would understand and enjoy? Should we invite them to share in our own digitized lives? Who is welcome at the party?

1 comment:

Nate St. Pierre said...

I do this stuff for a living, and I find it's wise to remind myself often that most people (especially the older ones) aren't online all day, and have absolutely no clue how a lot of this works.

I base my recommendations heavily on what I know of the person and their specific interests. If a new technology system fits into our convo in an appropriate way, I'll bring it up and see what they think.

If it's not quite relevant to the conversation, and you're just throwing it out there because it's something you're interested in, it probably won't be worth the questions and confusion you're gonna get.

A dude pushing 80 addicted to Twitter . . . now that'd be something to see. Speaking of, I saw Elizabeth Taylor on there the other day, and was surprised to find that she was still very much alive.