Thursday, September 10, 2009

Socially Networking

A few months ago I began getting emails, "Laura Quackenbush wants you to be her friend on Facebook," and more of the same. I didn't know what it meant. These were coming from people I hardly knew and from what I knew of Facebook, I didn't wanna do it.

Then Googling a friend I'd lost track of, the only mention of her was that she was on Facebook. I enrolled; contacted her; we exchanged email addresses, and I seldom checked out Facebook at all. I built a list of 12 friends. It seemed that all they did was take quizzes about their "actual age," and what heroine of a Victorian novel they "were." Once in a while somebody sent me a virtual bouquet of flowers or a drink. I didn't get it. I took the quiz, "What punctuation mark are you?" even though I knew what the answer was gonna be. And it was. I'm a semicolon.

Over time I began to visit other people's pages and a whole vista opened up to me. A guy I know had posted some of his beautiful photographs of his children rollicking with Mobile Bay in the background. I saw the comments from his friends and got a picture of the tapestry of his whole life. I saw that he had 50 friends on Facebook. Then I decided to look up some people I hadn't seen in 30 years and see if they were on Facebook too. Some were. I added them to my friends list. I began getting clever posts every day. It was like a blog, but briefer and some of the comments compelled me to "befriend" the people making the comments. My friends list expanded. My Facebook experience took on a life of its own. A minor addiction was taking hold.

I've noticed that people come and go on Facebook. For a time there will be a blizzard of comments and "status" statements, then they fade away. It's a game of which one grows tired. I haven't yet. I'm there about ten times a day, checking to see if anyone has posted something I should know about. It's like an overview of people you've known at different points in your life. It's fun, it's user-friendly, and it seems to me a perfect game for a retiree with time on his or her hands. Like me.

My grandson Andy, who'll be 12 in a couple of weeks, takes all the quizzes. One he set up and sent to me was "How Well Do You Know Andy?" and he had all kinds of questions about who his favorite soccer players were, etc. His message to me was, "If you miss any of these, I'll kill you." I wrote back that he shouldn't kill me, after all, I'm his grandmother. I missed most of them, but it was an unfair test. I know Andy pretty well. Social networks can only go so far.

On balance, I'm still in the claws of Facebook. In a few months my interest will probably fade as everyone else's does, but I recommend it as a experiment if you're looking for something to do. It will give you little insights into the lives and thinking of people you have known and loved for years, as well as those you didn't know so much.

Twitter is a different story. I'm on it too, and I tweet there some five or six times a day. I still don't have the key, though; I can't imagine what it's for or what I'm getting from it. It's just part of my OCD, I guess, gotta hang in there--maybe it'll mean something someday. It's social networking, after all. Who I'm networking with, besides a few friends from the blog and total strangers who are reading my tweets for no reason I can discern, I admit I don't know. Maybe I'm famous (to some 40 people who have no idea who I am). Twitter tells me I have followers. Maybe I'm a guru. Or maybe I'm just tweeting in the wind.

A blog is better than either of these, but both of them are way easier.

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