Social Networking: Profile Strip Tease and Cyber Friends

I was reluctant to join Facebook, but in a way, I'm glad I did. I'm able to stay in touch with friends, and I managed to reunite with my cousins. Nevertheless, I remain leery of Facebook and its terms of agreement. Especially since I've heard that the FBI uses this social network to keep tabs on people.

Then I joined the highly amusing Twitter. Almost all my favourite news and information sources are on it, and my list of followers keeps growing. I do use my pseudonym, but again I feel apprehensive about giving too many details about my private life. But it feels odd to receive what appear to be open and frank tweets and not reciprocate. After all, you're not broadcasting, but you are giving personal information out to a large group of people simultaneously.

Anyway, I'm not alone in my concern. In this month's online issue of Wired (17.02), Steven Levy writes about his experience on Twitter.

Since I don't know many in this mob, I try not to be personally revealing. Still, no matter how innocuous your individual tweets, the aggregate ends up being the foundation of a scary-deep self-portrait. It's like a psychographic version of strip poker—I'm disrobing, 140 characters at a time.
My sentiments exactly. It's not the individual tweet that causes the harm. It's the sum of all your tweets that creates your profile. The same is true of your blog. Your choice of subjects reveals your interests to the world, and in a sense, it also creates a profile, albeit more subtle.

There's also the notion of cyber friendship that I can't quite get my head around. I spent a month posting articles on a site, and I feel like I made some enjoyable, insightful contacts. And when I decided to leave the site, I felt genuine regret and remorse about losing these people. But I don't think, you could call these contacts friends or acquaintances. I haven't seen them, or met them in-person. However, I have had some meaningful exchanges with them, and I did learn things. All in all, it was a very positive experience. Did these contacts make my life richer? Yes, they did.

I guess my concern is that I have spent a lot of time alone on my computer, but feel as though I have been socializing. And as a busy mother, partner and employee, I feel like social networking has given me the social outlet I need. But is it genuinely social? No. Would I talk to my real life friends about my cyber friends? No... I'd be afraid they'd tell me to get a life.


Post a Comment