Monday, January 14, 2008

To Social Network or Not to Social Network?

How easy is it to feel offended by others in an online environment – where lack of non verbal communications to ‘read’ the true meaning of things – doesn’t allow you to properly judge what others are saying??

Last week a friend, who is also a work colleague and fellow social networker, emailed me in Facebook to enquire whether something they’d sent me earlier in FB had offended me, as they’d seen some comments/questions I’d been posing in Twitter about whether there needs to be SNetiquette – “a social networking etiquette” in places like FB & Twitter?

I quickly responded – that in no way was I referring to them at all – and that I was really pondering about the legitimacy of having my Facebook account as my 'public online face', and wanted to know how people felt about FB.

Then today – a conversation occurred in Twitter which made me truly understand how my FB friend was feeling. I tweeted:

“Wondering if there's a computation to calculate the wealth of combined knowledge within a social network?”

This draw a response of realization that social networks are quickly creating ‘repetition’, ‘overlap’, ‘noise’ and becoming ‘babble’

Now I’m wondering if I’m using Twitter to ‘babble’ too much? Should I consider a little more carefully what tweets I make?

So like my FB friend – I’ve had to directly ask the true meaning of these comments – to draw out further clarification.

This has also led me to wonder:

What is a Social Network?

A means of communicating with others, sharing ideas, thoughts and opinions?

A means of conversing with people, with whom you might not necessarily have the opportunity to talk to due to time and distance?

A means of sourcing information?

A means of ‘staying in touch’ with what others are doing?

Or A means of ‘babbling’?

“Let's face it, 90% of all the things going on in social networks is just crap. Facebook is the worst I have experience so far - my front page is filled with junk.” Thomas Baekdal 12/01/08, "Linkin, Facebook, Hi5, Friendster, Orkut, Bebo etc… "

And more recently on Twitter:
Warlach @jjprojects I think Twitter etiquette requires one to act like oneself, if you dont like it, just don't follow


Sue Waters said...

Actually your comment about Facebook, Twitter and work colleagues probably relates more to who you interact with within each network. For me Twitter is very personal and a place where I want to be able to vent steam, if I so wish, without concern. It is not a place where I would use to connect with my students, work colleagues or family. Whereas I am happy to have any one connect with me in Facebook because I have no personal attachment. Saying all this it makes me think that it is worth removing the Twitter application from Facebook if there are concerns that people not in my twitter network will misconstrue my rants and reflections when they are posted in Facebook.

Your question in Twitter today was a really good one; and relates to the Wisdom of Crowds. My answer to how you use Twitter - is use it how you want to use it. If others don't like how you use it that is their problem. Twitter is your personal learning network -- be who you are not who people want you to be. No different really from blogging.

Sue Waters
Mobile Technology in TAFE

MadMiller said...

Thanks Sue - your words are very much appreciated.

I didn't think my Twitter network would have this effect on me - but I do find sometimes that it's hard to read the full meaning of written text.

I'm sure with more 'practice' online I'll develop a better sense of my networks, social networking, and hopefully grow a thicker 'virtual' skin.

KerryJ said...

Hi Allison

Yes it IS difficult at times to determine meanings behind posts. For instance, I used to find emails with no salutation or just my name to be rude and abrupt. Since using Twitter, I see that communications are becoming more economic therefore the niceties/fillers are the first thing to go.

As for Twitter, I see a lot of value in "babbling". I think it fascinating to watch people brainstorm and feel the unspoken invitation to jump in.

You and several people whom I feel privileged in thinking of as "my Twitter buddies" have helped make me a Twitter fan because your combination of casual friendly posts, and earnest questioning is engaging for me. Plus the supportive messages when I Tweet about a victory or defeat are warm fuzzies that make my day.

I stop following people who are either deep ALL the time or who only post minute details I don't find interesting. That's the control Twitter provides.

I think there is bound to be some overlap if one is communicating via multiple channels -- but each channel has its own flavour and slant. If I go to a conference I'll Twitter, Flickr AND blog (and now use qik to video stream) and while all of these communications will be about the conference, they'll speak about the experience in different ways.

As for Facebook - I keep that account because I like some of the Groups and events invites and I love staying in touch with my niece in the States. I've faded out of accepting Vampire fights, pillow fights, movie quizzes and the rest of that stuff with everyone else.

I use my own blog (not my company blog) as my hub of internet identity because I want to establish my "brand" of KerryJ free from advertisements and other distractions.

And if I've ever offended the people with whom I Twitter, play with in SL or otherwise engage with online -- I hope they'll take the time to call or email for clarification. Building relationships online and offline is about communication and respect.

See you 'round the WWW...

KerryJ :^ )

Howard said...

What is a social network? You could write a phd on that subject. I agree with what sue and kerry say. About babbling I have had a recent experience over the last week – I’ve started following a couple of educators whom I don’t know. They “chat” to each other via twitter and I have been finding it a bit annoying and I start thinking “bad etiquette” etc. Yet when a chat occurs between a couple of twitters who I feel I know, I usually enjoy it and feel connected with them, even though I might not take part. Hmmm so what is going on? Familiarity influences my opinion of tweets I guess. Yet it could easily be the opposite in that we are more likely to project a presence on to those who we don’t know online. So much remains subjective.

I like the combination of logos (to do with knowledge and information) and eros (as relatedness) that twitter provides. I don’t get the same out of facebook – fb makes me wonder who’s it for? The marketers? The software developers who launch applications? The goals are very different there. Twitter feels like a favourite local coffee shop (I can relax and do business at the same time; and learn more about what’s really going on), FB feels like a huge high tech shopping mall that I find overstimulating & distracting. And I feel like I’m being watched.

I found myself returning to batesons definition to information: any difference that makes a difference. Perhaps we could provide the same criteria to a social network (or social objects) – if it is important it makes a difference. How we decide what makes a difference needs to be personal (and at times collective). And in our personal choices there could be confusion in the short space that twitter provides – at times it’s about relatedness and at times it’s about information; and often it’s about both.

Btw I attempted a serious response to your question on twitter about evaluating social networks online; but was not sure if you wanted me to take it further – I misread your intention, perhaps? Please feel free to take me up about taking this further.

Clay Burell said...

Hi Allison,

Not much to add here except that a) you ask good questions and have some excellent comments in this post; b) I agree that Twitter is both a logos and eros heaven - I find myself alternately deep in reflective twittersation about professional or political issues, showing my tweety clown ass when I feel like playing, and generally, as Howard so wonderfully puts it, feeling like my favorite coffee house.

The social warmth of Twitter, the instant service of so many strong brains and good hearts, the delicious randomness of who's on, what's hot, and new follows is all astonishing to me. And let's not forget the ease and brevity.

I love Twitter. And I don't really care if I don't get along with everybody at the party - it's the same in first life.

See you in Twitbin. You just made me late to get ready for a movie!