Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Going Around in Circles

Once upon a time, a long time ago in a galaxy that now seems far, far away, social media was born and was embraced by the young people of the internet.

It was something called My Space and gradually it seemed like that was all you were hearing about.

It kind of reminded me of the really long time ago days when I would see TV advertisements for Prodigy. I don't think I even had internet access then and I never learned for the longest time what Prodigy was, but all I knew was that the man kept calling his wife over and saying "you gotta get this thing!"

When I got my first modem, it came with program disks for Prodigy and for CompuServe. In one of those serendipitous moments when I decided I should try one or the other of them, I chose CompuServe. I don't remember why, but either it sounded more interesting, or it had a free option that Prodigy didn't, or something. How lucky I was that day, when I think how many extraordinary things came out of my decision to install CompuServe on my computer!

So I encountered my first social media circle (though the term wasn't being used yet) with CompuServes Issues forum, where the friends I made then are still friends now -- some of them are people I consider among my best friends.

When CompuServe started going wonky, I never really noticed because I had stopped using it for a long time and was concentrating on this journal and on a couple of yahoo group e-mail lists.

I also joined My Space to find out what all the hoopla was about. I wasn't there for long because the population seemed to be significantly younger than I was or interested into things that didn't interest me. (I think I still have a page there.)

Then the term "social media" was coined.

I heard of something called Twitter. I decided to try it. I liked Twitter, especially because I liked the challenge of writing something witty using only 140 characters. But I never could figure out how to use it in any reasonable way in my own life.

I reconnected with Kari Peterson, a person I'd known peripherally for many years. Kari wanted to know more about Twitter, so we met for our first infamous coffees at Mishka's coffee house. I told her all I knew about Twitter and set her loose. She loosed those wings and literally flew. She became a Twitter maven and since I had lost interest in it, I rarely had much occasion to cross her path very often.

Then there was this new thing called Facebook that some people were talking about. I thought I'd join it and see what it was all about. At the time nobody I knew used Facebook, so I began looking for "old" people and discovered that most of the "old" people were in their 40s. I joined a group called 'Am I the Oldest Person on Faebook' and discovered I was the oldest person in that group.

There was a blip that happened a few years ago and suddenly I was getting friend requests from people I actually knew. My children were on Facebook. Their friends were on Facebook. People I knew well (like Char and her kids) joined and my cousins joined. I suddenly went from a few dozen friends to hundreds of friends. I accepted anybody's request. It was a heady time when all of those real time friends were getting their feet wet and learning about Facebook. There were always messages from someone I knew. It was such fun. Like being on a party line with all of your best friends, all talking at the same time.

But the novelty began to wear off. My kids stopped using it. Laurel, Tom, and Laurel's mother stopped posting the pictures of Bri that I looked forward to. My friends found better things to do. I still have lots of friends, but the ones who are the most active are people that I either know only peripherally, or whom I have never met. Which is OK, it's just not like it was a couple of years ago. I still use Facebook to play its version of Scrabble (Lexulous) with four different friends.

Then people started talking about Google-Plus, Google's own social networking site. I looked at a couple of tutorials about it and saw absolutely nothing that would make me interested in learning a whole new social network (though since it doesn't seem to have built-in games, there is that advantage--no more Farmville or any of a host of games that drive me crazy on Facebook, since I don't play them and am not interested in them).

Kari and I meet at Mishka's again yesterday and I learned that she had stopped using Twitter and had transferred most of her Twitter connections to Facebook, but she was interested in learning about Google+. She pointed out that it's in its infancy right now and if it ends up being as popular as Facebook (burying Facebook the way Facebook buried the seemingly indestructible My Space), we'd be ahead of the crowd in already knowing how to use it.

So I joined Google+ yesterday and am trying to make sense of it. On first look, it seems to be cleaner, more straightfoward, and easier to learn than Facebook. Of course I don't have a lot of connections there yet, but if a lot of my "real" friends move to G+, I will be able to do what I used to do on Facebook, and only check the information from a select group of people instead o from everyone.

Into Day #2, I like it better than I thought I would, but I realize that unless friends also join it, it won't have any more meaning for me than Twitter did.

It all seems to hinge on the "circle" concept and at the moment, I'm just floating around in circles and trying to decide (a) what I'm doing and (b) if it's all worthwhile.


Harriet said...

"No games" is a powerful incentive, but I'm still not ready for another social network.

phonelady said...

one social network site is enough for me and I use that only to keep in touch with family and friends back home .