Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Our Developing Social (Networking) Revolution 7-8-09 Editor's Column

In an interesting conversation I had about a week ago, a friend of mine and I discussed how far we have come in our technological advances just over the last 20 years.

We discussed how easily many people got along without email or text messaging then and how being separated from cell phones and computers for any length of time now can lead to some people having sensory deprivation.

I remember when my family first got a computer and dial-up was the standard to have; you would have been hard pressed to find DSL or anything like that anywhere but in most offices or schools.

Yet, here we are with a world of information at our fingertips and the convenience that comes with things like e-mail and the likes provide.

And, along with that has developed what is commonly referred to as the social-networking scene. Web sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and others connect people that would otherwise never talk to one another.

But how big is this ever-changing asset that we now find at our disposal? I would venture to say much larger than many of us might think.

Consider Facebook, for example. With a few clicks of a mouse and the proper spelling of a name, you can find anyone that has a profile on the popular web site. Facebook, which eclipsed 175 million users back in February, not only allows you to find people that you have lost contact with, but also gives you a glimpse at things like what they're doing now, what they are in to, what kind of beliefs they have and even what they did five minutes ago.

But it’s also a little more than that. While there are plenty of fun things to do on Facebook, it also has the potential to serve as a tool for political and social organizations looking to reach a wider audience. Many people who frequent the site may be familiar with the fan pages that the presidential candidates used to gain support and spread their platforms, reaching younger audiences that spurred one of the largest turnouts in voter history.

Businesses are using Facebook to reach new clients and advertise in this new social medium. Bands are using it to gain support for their music. The applications are endless.

Then we have the web site known as Twitter. A real-time status feed, similar to Facebook’s status but geared more toward quick blurbs and shortened hyperlinks.

Limited to only 140 characters, many Twitter users will post links to content relevent to their professions or their interests. Users can follow people or submit for approval to follow and have an endless feed of news from any one person.

One of the more interesting things to me about this site is the fact that you can follow as many news organizations as you like and most of them, so long as they are fairly active, will have the latest headlines minutes after they go up on their web sites, giving us breaking news at our fingertips and no longer requiring us to wait until the end of the day or for the next morning’s newspaper.

There are even professions beginning to take shape around social media. A good friend of mine is currently the Manager of New Media for the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, a think tank on government policies - and there are more like Cato utilizing the social media scene every day.

We have come a long way in such a short period of time and now find ourselves redefining what it is to network socially and get our news.

I would venture to say that instead of looking at it as a passing trend, we should consider some of this to be developing future of the online presence that will likely ebb and flow with the rest of technology. The only question that remains is, how will approach it?

If you would like to try out Facebook or Twitter, add me on Facebook or follow the Mahomet Citizen on Twitter at

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