A Social Network is a group of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Technology is now able to help all people to connect with others in meaningful ways. See the Social Networking in Plain English video on YouTube.
My first experience with social networking came a little over a year ago when I decided that in order for me to be believable in my job as a computer resource specialist, I needed to expand the types of tools that I was comfortable using. So, I started a Twitter account. Twitter is like a mini blog were you and your friends share short messages with each other. See the Twitter in Plain English video on YouTube.
At first I didn’t know what to make of Twitter. I remember thinking, “Why do people do this? Why am I doing this?” I decided that I would really give it a chance and stick it out for a month or so and post at least a couple of things a day. I soon found that I was wondering what my friends were up to. Their lives always seemed so much more interesting than my own. Soon my postings changed from things like, “watching TV,” to links and pictures that gave my friends a better idea of what I was up to, and the things that are professionally important to me.
My friends list grew, and then I was looking for ways to save the valuable resources that were being shared in this new format. So, I started up a Delicious bookmarking service account. See the Social Bookmarking in Plain English video on YouTube. For every link that I find that has any value to me, I create a Delicious bookmark for it and label it with as many keywords as I can. I do this for myself, for the rest of my Delicious network, and anyone else who uses Delicious.
There are many different kinds of social networks but the key is people connecting to people. YouTube is a social site that allows people upload and share videos for free (see my latest experiment in cookie baking). Flickr is a social site that allows people upload and share pictures for free (see my family’s trip to Disney World this past summer). There is even a site that is devoted to helping running enthusiasts to train- it is called MapMyRun, and the site will help you to find running events, measure the distances you run and develop a training program to meet your goals.
Nings are Internet tools that allow people to create their own personal social networks. Our school newspaper, the Gator Gazette, is a Ning that was created to give the students a voice using a 21st century tool.
I created a Ning just for Glenwood teachers and I called it the Glenwood Underground. The idea in creating this Ning was not to lock anyone out, it was to give teachers who are interested, a safe place to experiment with a new tool. So please join up, and as soon as I get your request I will accept you so that you can experiment with the site. You can upload movies, and pictures, begin your own blog, and share it with people outside of the Ning if you wish. Try it, it is fun!
Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites today. It is an amazing tool for connecting to people. Based on the schools you attended (you enter this information on sign up), where you live and your place of employment, Facebook attempts to match you up with people you may know. It is truly surprising how fast you can connect with people once you complete the sign up process. You are all but guaranteed to connect with 5 people that you haven’t seen in years on the first day!
Facebook does seem to create differences in how it is used based on the age of the participant, but something that I do like about Facebook is that you can connect to other preexisting social networking sites that you already set up. Facebook will add content such as material on your blog, Flickr account and YouTube account. I think this is nice because I gives your friends one avenue to keep track of all that you are doing in your online world.
Not to be a downer on this wonderful subject, but you must be careful how you present yourself in this virtual environment. You can easily lose your job, or prevent yourself from getting your dream job just because you took the wrong picture and placed it on your Facebook page. If you write something critical or vulgar of the wrong person, or establishment, you may live to regret it. Anything good can be used in a poorly planned way and can come back to hurt you, whether it is the old skateboard in the garage, or a college picture taken at an inconvenient time. Be careful!
Since I began my social networking exploration, I have had to learn the hard way about being careful. I tend to get caught up in emotion- sometimes good, sometimes bad- and I say things that I have regretted later. Once it is said, you can not take it back. If you hurt someone, it is just as painful to them as if you had said it to them in person. Even if you never intended to hurt anyone.
Communication by text is not always clear, but you should always strive for clarity. Consider your postings and the impact it might have on yourself and others down the road.
Live by this one rule; never post anything that you would be embarrassed for your grandmother to read, or see. Maybe that won’t help you, but hopefully you get the idea. Social networking is a great way to connect with other people, use it for the good it can do for everyone.