Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rare Serious Query

Here's a serious query:

I've now gotten (in real life) dozens of invitations and requests to join various social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others with names I cannot remember. The number of such requests has me wondering whether it might not be good to do this kind of thing. Could someone weigh in on this? Are any such sites worth joining? Which ones? Why? What are the benefits? And so on.

I'm inclined to think that all such sites are just time-wasters or instruments of ersatz stalking. Am I wrong? Thanks.

14 comments:

Paul Gowder said...

facebook, at least, is a good way to reinforce weak ties -- to keep in touch with people with whom one isn't super-close, but one still wants to keep some connection.

Matthew Platte said...

Ask the kids in Teheran. You remember three; sign up with those. Tweetdeck lets you post to Twitter and Facebook at the same time!

cw said...

FYI: The Philosophy Smoker spent some time on the ins and outs of friend requests from students.

http://tiny.cc/fgqI0

729 said...

My serious suggestion: Try one, or two at the most, for a test drive. (Maybe Facebook and Twitter.) No matter what the outcome is, the experience is *interesting.*

My cautionary tale: I've done time on almost all the sites, and gradually stopped using all of them. Sure, I still have my accounts, but, like unwatered plants, one's pages on these sites wither away and die without continual upkeep.

For me--and I speak solely for myself here--they turned out not only to be time-wasters, ersatz-talking (the only people I consistently communicated with and amused/was amused by were the same people I already communicated with directly by conventional means), but, furthermore, these sites amounted to experiences in a certain loss of privacy that just didn't feel worth "protecting," especially after my family joined Facebook, an ex started stalking me, and students and people I barely knew from grade-school began relentlessly friending me. By the time I started to set up all privacy filters to deal with this onslaught, any desire I had to share whatever it was I was sharing completely disappeared. I wondered, "Why am I doing this to myself?" I was unable to answer satisfactorily. The thrill was gone. I started picking up the phone to talk to the people I like who live far away, and making more plans with people nearby. I didn't miss any of the social-networking sites on account of socializing. I started writing even more whenever no one happened to be around, and still do some blog-commenting (being the jerk that I am). I know that other people do get something from social-networking sites. I just wasn't one of them.

Stephen Bank said...

I've found facebook useful for keeping up with long-distance friends. Although it can be a horrible waste of time.

PA said...

You seem to be implying that ersatz stalking is a bad thing.

chrono said...

There are a couple tenured philosophers on facebook. One way it helps is networking. Another is to feel a false sense of camaraderie with them, which can help one's career.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I tend to like Facebook, if only because long lost high school friends are there...

imajerk said...

You were on myspace.

Aren't you answering your own question?

Kevin said...

I'm inclined to say FaceBook is worthwhile (I was outwardly opposed for a while, then switched to agnostic, then tried it out). (Twitter's for twits, as the name suggests, although I am very impressed by the role it's played in the Iranian situation.) As Paul noted, FB reinforces weak ties and stabilizes your social network. Unlike letters and phone calls, which usually are motivated by macro-communications (its my birthday, you're getting married, etc.), and emails which require an initial motivation to write, Facebook depends on a system of micro-communications (I did such and such today, etc.). And unlike the other forms, Facebook doesn't require such a strong motivation to communicate, so it is more felicitous to everyday, face-to-face interactions which generally are not initiated by "big news." Even better, there are numerous options to not have to communicate with certain people on facebook!

Anonymous said...

lots and lots of philosophers on facebook these days. it's almost like not being in the phonebook..

Spiros said...

Anon 8:32:

Really? Do philosophers use facebook as a way to be in contact with each other professionally?

Anonymous Boojum said...

I'm inclined to think that all such sites are just time-wasters

You mean like blogs?

Spiros said...

Boojum,

Precisely. And your point would be?