What is social networking? This term could be broken down into many concepts. When I initially hear the term social networking, the last thing that comes to mind is the Internet. If I had no idea what the hell Digg or StumbleUpon was, I would assume social networking was some sort of event where people meet other people and try to find similar interests. I also associate the word social with being in a group of people participating in some sort of discussion, activity, or drinking game.
What I’ve noticed though is that most social networking and social bookmarking sites aren’t really used to “network” at all – at least by a majority of it’s users. I’m not by any means implying that sites like Digg, Twitter and StumbleUpon aren’t great networking tools – they are in fact brilliant mediums for building contacts and traffic to any website or blog. But it seems to a giant majority of the Internet population social networking sites are yet another form of addiction. These sites can easily suck up 2-3 hours of time that would have been better spent doing something else, and as I am setting up accounts on all the major social networking platforms I’m beginning to notice this more and more. I just spent an hour and a half stumbling through random WordPress blogs giving thumbs up, or thumbs down before I recognized what time it was – and that I had a blog post to write.
Here is what our good ol’ friends at Wikipedia have to say about Social Networking:
A social network service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services.
Social networking has created powerful new ways to communicate and share information. Social networking websites are being used regularly by millions of people, and it now seems that social networking will be an enduring part of everyday life. The main types of social networking services are those which contain directories of some categories (such as former classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages), and recommender systems linked to trust.
Personally, I have never had the time or patience to be sitting on the Internet trying to find my old crush from high-school or the bully that used to throw rocks at me during recess (you’d better run if I ever see you again). When sites like Facebook and Myspace surfaced I immediately set up profiles and began experimenting with the functionality – but my intentions were always results oriented, especially when it came to Myspace. Myspace has been a great marketing tool for me to promote my music, and collaborate with other musicians and artists around the globe, yet I still suffered from a slight addiction at one point in time – becoming obsessed with adding friends, increasing my plays, and commenting instead of strategically marketing and promoting.
I strongly believe that an addiction to social networking sites can become a serious problem. We struggle enough trying to filter out the copious amounts of information fed into our brains on a daily basis – and the last thing we need is a society of unfocused, twitter-fied zombies. There is more to life than the little graphic on your blog or web page which spits out how many “votes” you have, and I give warning to anybody intrigued or interested in discovering the value of Internet social networking sites – if you don’t have a reason to be using them, DON’T! Unless you have no job, live at home and don’t pay rent. Make a list of how you could benefit from social networking services and determine the value of using this medium to increase the presence and web-awareness of your company, brand, or blog. Having a list of benefits should at least help you keep focused and utilize these tools to generate traffic and awareness to your selected source destination.
I’d love to hear what you guys think about the value of social networking sites, and the possible addiction associated with these types of services.