“ Here's your chance to tell us what you think about social networking! Calling all facebook fanatics, twitter followers or those of you who stay well away from such sites! We would love to hear from you! „
The case of the teenage girl that managed to get up to a mind boggling 64 stone in just 9 years and so had to be chainsawed from her mums council house is, for me, a symptom of this new world we live in where social media and reality TV are beginning to dictate our lives. She appeared on TV a few times for being really fat and the self esteem she lost from being fat was recovered by being fat on TV. When she lost a lot of that weight in Fat Camp she was no longer Britain's fattest teen and so the media stopped. Did she put the weight back on to regain her notoriety we wonder? The new media world we live in that allows us to create our own minor celebrity encourages that self obsession and need for notoriety that seems to have room for all of us, social online media the waiting room. We are told we can all be famous for being who we are, the absurd 'The Only Way is Essex' the nadir of this type of medium, ridiculous people from Essex playing a exaggerated version of themselves and in need of a script to do it, but tat like this mesmerizing to impressionable young girls and so more of it made. Most social media use is by females and their role models are changing. Home pages have become auditions of our celebrity potential, pretty people posting up millions of pictures of themselves, often next to not so pretty friends and acquaintances. Facebook and the like has become an expression of who we would like to be and a portal to match up with people like us. The pricing of those Facebook shares at nearly $40 was clearly ludicrous, designed to score a quick buck for everyone but the shareholders. Its like investing in black & white TV. On a documentary by a flirty BBC newsreader we learned that Mark Zuckerberg refused one billion dollars for his company back in 2004 as he felt he could grow it to what it is today and so the fact he has taken the money now suggests Facebook can't grow much more. I think its heading for MySpace fete and it will fall away and the next big thing will come along and facebook will be absorbed at cut price by some media group or another, like Friends Reunited was and never see again. All websites need to make money from adverts and product placement and facebook just doesn't do that, especially as a lot of users still have this outdated internet morality code that social media websites should not be used to gather consumer data or be a billboard for Coca Cola. As more and more website usage moves to mobile phones there's less and less advert space and that will be the death of facebook. I don't doubt Zuckerbergs people can come up with new ideas but I know that most people can live without facebook once they start to charge money. But for me he has moved on to his next project in his mind. Porn and sex drive the internet, not so much social media, so much so that Google refuse to reveal just how much of their searches are porn related. It's still smutty yet most of us do it although I do feel the internet has long since passed that point where it can survive without the sex industry. But the governments domestic user porn website block being muted is making both internet providers and search engines very nervous as it clearly is guaranteed traffic and so future business and subscriptions. Online shopping is fun but it is just 3D mail-order at the end of the day and you send stuff back just as much. The power of online social media, on the other hand, is a new and a powerful tool. All those girls' and boys you were too nervous to talk to or bullied you at school you can now catch up with online. The computer doesn't blush and humans are the only animals that do. It has shrunk the world and grown our confidence. And those link to other links and you add those links and away you go. But it all changed when celebrity grasped social media's commercial potential by the neck and now twitter is quoted more than the BBC for tabloid style revelations. It has also offered something fresh, the chance to actually interact with celebrities. That I do enjoy although I understand that most of the time Im talkig to the star or sports players PR department on the celebrities behalf. As a minor sports writer its a great way to get little titbits from players. Celebrities loved Twitter and saw it as a way of growing their celebrity so to shift more products through eventual endorsements, the current Olympic squad well up for it by naming their sponsors car brands and how fabulous they on their Twitter feeds. It's a thermometer of how famous they are and for many the numbers of followers they harvest reassures them they are famous. But they thought only the fans would add them and read them. Big mistake. This invite into their lives, at arms length mind, opened them up to all kinds of abuse, coming to ahead with a student from Wales jailed for making a drunken comment about Fabrice Muamba, an absurd judicial moral attack on this guys liberty, especially when you consider Tony Blair is walking around in his Armani suit making 12 million quid a year off the back of his outrageous war in Iraq with no sign of any arrest warrant there. Any conviction like the Welsh kid is about protecting the moneyed and putting the plebs in their place, not injustice. Lets face it, its fun abusing celebrities online. Plainly pretty Olympic golden girl swimmer Rebecca Addington is an example of that feeling that celebrated people don't understand that celebrity doesn't always means people actually like you. They like what you do and so she was shocked when she started to read those comment threads under her positive online articles, may people ripping the pi** out of her for her sizeable conk. The question then has to be asked whether anonymous posters are only saying those things because they can't be caught or that is who we truly are. I tend to believe the later, although I do quite fancy her, big snozz or not. More worrying for female self-esteem is the idiot coach at British Athletics who said Jessica Ennis looked fat??? My twitter experience is take it or leave it. I never leave banal messages on it and not one for hunting for quotes. To me, like Facebook, I won't miss it if it was gone and certainly wouldn't pay to use it, if it goes that way. Again this is the big problem for social media. If someone charges the people just move on to the busier free site and the advert companies follow. My Space and Friends Reunited know all about that. The whole social media and online access to all of us is breaking down the current establishment as everything is coming out. You can't escape the truth, as politician expenses scandal and the News International trauma has exposed. It's very attractive that way. Like with TV, who ever gets the most control online becomes the law. Who knew the fabled Washington Times is owned by the Moonies? The Mormons own most of Vegas newspapers and media, as well as the casinos. Who knows what Scientology owns!
The beginning... It was quite a long time after my friends joined that I was persuaded to join Facebook. Of course I knew about it from their conversations, but couldn't really see the point. The people I am actually friends with I have phone numbers for and see all the time anyway. People I vaguely know but don't have numbers for I obviously don't want to contact, right? So what's the point? Also, I was new to the internet back then and was a little wary of security and didn't particularly want my mug up there for the world to see. Funnily enough, it was almost because of this that I joined. Let me explain. One of my closest friends had become somewhat obessed with Facebook (still is) and had posted loads of old photos on there. It was only when I learned that there were pictures of me on there, that I joined. Really to monitor her activity of posting my mug on the world wide web. Then, of course the addiction slowly began to set in. One by one old school friends, work collegues and neighbours starting adding me and out of curiosity I accepted, secretly quite intrigued to know what they'd done with their lives, of course I had no intention of actually speaking to them! I remember perhaps a few weeks after I joined, I was living with my then boyfriend who was curious to know what I was constantly clicking away doing and was looking over my shoulder when he spied a picture of himself that my friend had put up. He was livid! Of course within a few months he'd joined up and we were both uploading pictures of each other in all sorts of drunken predicaments, 'poking' people and 'buying' imaginary farm animals. ...but I invited you on Facebook... What a waste of time huh? Well, yes it was really and after a while I became a bit tired of it and really didn't use it much. I then found I'd been missing out on various parties and meetings because people were no longer phoning or texting people to arrange things, they were sending invites on Facebook! Now I'm back on there checking it a few times a day. I do admit it's the easiest way to contact a vast number of people quickly and easily if you are arranging something and to have long conversations that you can reply to when it suits you. More in depth than a text but more convenient than a phone call. Although, I do begrudge the fact this has become the number one way of contact with my friends now, meaning if you don't check your Facebook (or, heaven forbid, you aren't on Facebook) you get left behind. 'Like' Me! I also use Facebook to check up on my interests such as where my favourite bands are playing etc. Their new 'like' feature means you can click 'like' on a band, artist's or businesses page and their updates will come up on your news feed. Whilst I find this very useful and have found out about a number of things I otherwise would not of without the use of Facebook, I do get annoyed with some people who update a riduculous amount of times a day. They end up 'hogging' my news feed and perhaps stopping me from seeing something I else that might have popped up had they not been so greedy! I use these Facebook pages both as a customer and a business as while liking other peoples pages to see what they are up to I also have a page for my own website. So far I have 219 people who like my site, and I would never have got so much interest without the Facebook page. I have also dabbled in promothing my business with Facebook ads and while proving reasonably costly, it's effective in that you can target your audience so specifically according to what is on their profile. I guess these ads are the thing keeping Facebook going, I certainly wouldn't pay to use it as it's frequently suggested they are toying with. Miss Purple is having a wee... Facebook has come a long was since I joined, with the introduction of many games to play, live chat, applications to waste time on and numerous seemingly pointless layout changes. Of course now there is also Facebook mobile so you can update the world on what you're doing on the bus, on holiday, in bed, during Sunday dinner with the family, in a lecture, even on the loo if you wish! Yep, there's no escape! De-Tagging... The number one thing Facebook lovers adore though is the photo sharing. I am a member of the facebook group 'I am drunk in 90% of my Facebook pictures.' Though now I'm getting older and more sensible I'm trying to get the percentage down to a point where I can leave the group! There used to be a time where you got your photos back and if they were awful you could hide them, burn them and pretend they never happened. Now, if you go out with your friends and take a camera they are expecting all their hilarious exploits in be online pronto so they can make endless witty comments and fill up your email inbox with 100's of Facebook notifications. Oh joy. Whilst it used to be case to take pictures for your own memories and if there were some good ones, post them online, it;'s now got to the point where people take photos with the sole purpose of having them on Facebook. "Take one of me with that guys hat on, I want it for my profile picture!" Of course once the pictures are up there, it's a race to get to them first. If you are quick enough to get to the bad ones before your friends see them you can detag them and reduce the potential damage... and so the Facebook obsession continues. The Lingo. Lol. Not only has Facebook become the way in which I organise my social life, share holiday pics, and wish people Happy Birthday (cards are so yesterday), it now even has a language. Forget text speak, this is Facebook speak. If you don't know what lol means you must be martian. Personally, my biggest bug bear with the whole thing. You have a whole qwerty keyboard now and infinite number of characters, use them!! Just don't let Granny see your profile... Whlist this review has turned into more my history and annoyance with Facebook, I think it has highlighted the reasons for which I begrudingly use it so often. Whether I like it or not social networking is important to me, for depressingly without it I probably would lose touch with a lot of friends. I've never been a member of myspace, or bebo, but dabbled in Friends reunited for a while and look at band's myspace pages for information. I think though Facebook has the monopoly, even sparking merchandise such as 'No I'm not on Facebook" T Shirts, though if they sell I don't know, as I think most people now are, young and old. Some of my friends parents are even on there. Lucky my mum does not have a computer or indeed knows how to work 'that web thing' so I'm off the hook for now. I can not really imagine being with out Facebook now, and I think it will last. Maybe only Twitter has rivalled it recently, though I'm not joing that...social networking takes up enough of my time already. It's important to me, but one site is enough, I think.
How Important is Social Networking to me? Hmm. Judging by the picture shown here, this clearly refers to online social networking, and not physical social networking, and so I have answered this accordingly. Just under than five years the likes of Facebook did not exist - unless you were at a certain university which allowed you to join - it did however open its doors to the masses in late 2006. I have of course played an active part in other online communities including Dooyoo and Ciao, (this is my 250th review on dooyoo!!) and the occasional spin off forum, an interest which in itself has led to the occasional meeting or two. For friends and family the main method of communication was the telephone, followed by email, and occasional letter/postcards/cards. Even further back, around the year 2000, Friends Reunited was a popular way of seeking out old school friends, and even old colleagues and neighbours and was certainly one of the earliest social networking sites and quite revolutionary; the company was even valued at £175m at its peak. However this site seems to have run its course - many profiles from my old school friends have not been updated in ten years. I joined Facebook, perhaps one of the most popular and well known social networking sites, back in the summer of 2007. I seem to recall that one of my sisters sent me a link. In the early days and weeks of course, I did very little with Facebook, not quite seeing the attraction in sending people pixellated gifts and "poking" them for fun. How times have changed. Nowadays Facebook is one of my favourite sites, and I visit it several times a day - often made easier with the introduction of smartphones and the various phone apps. In fact, for wasting time surfing the internet, Facebook seems to have taken over, and I spend more time there than on the main review sites, acquiring around 220 "friends" in the meantime. The "FRIENDS" Thing... Many who do not particularly like/use/understand social network sites often criticise this strange habit of adding "friends" to a network, to socialise with them online? Why not simply communicate in the old fashioned way - face to face/on the telephone/via letter or email. Surely if these people were important to you, then there are better ways to keep up with their news? In fact my own hubby has uttered many of these objections, despite having his own Facebook account in all that time. Well of course, remember 20 years ago, most of us did not have personal email address or mobile phone, in fact most of us would not have had an email account at work either. Going back to your parents/grandparents age, then they most possibly did not even have a telephone at home. In fact I don't think we had one at home until the mid 1970s. Our communication patterns are constantly evolving, although the internet has really accelerated the pace. Added to that, the way we live our lives has changed - a job used to be for life - now many of us change jobs every few years. I physically cannot keep up with everyone I have ever worked with, or even those who I have ever worked with who I was closest to - but Facebook helps to at least know the headlines about what is going on in their lives - good or bad, if they choose to share it - and I choose to read it. And families are more widespread. I myself have lived in almost 20 different addresses already. I used to have sisters in all four corners of Britain - now I have a sister and other close family and friends in Australia/Canada/America, who I can communicate with daily, for free. In terms of my own "friends" on Facebook then, then by and large these ARE people I have met in real life as it were, although a quick refresh of one of the many fun applications - Friend Wheel - would suggest about 10% are friendships formed through review websites - although I have met many of those 10%. By far my largest network of friends is through work, and my most recent employment, although I have been able to use the site to reconnect with people I worked with in Australia over ten years ago. I also have a reasonable family network and around 5% of my total is old school friends, which is a relatively small number, of those I was/still am close to. A quick refresh of another application would suggest that around 7% of my friends are neither male or female, but I guess we all have a few indecisive friends like that.. Use of Facebook.. I do use Facebook quite a lot, often it can be something simple such as an update on my day (good or bad), or to share a comment, or add to a current news issue - funny or frustrating. I maintain and share a lot of photos on line, usually from holidays or special occasions, or even just local shots. There is of course the facility for others to share their photos and "tag" individuals in the photos, effectively meaning those pictures can be seen by anyone in the network. I am not so keen on this, and tend to avoid sharing personal pictures of others for this reason. I do play a few games online as well, either alone or with others. In the early days, I think the main game played was scrabble (or some version of it) but nowadays I have been hooked in by Zynga and joined the hundreds of millions who play the dreaded Farmville, Frontierville and Cityville. I'm very sorry, to all my "friends" for the thousands of alerts these programs generate - but you can block these status updates in your news feed you know.. As well as games, there are literally thousands of other quizzes/applications which you need to sign your online life away to subscribe to. I use less of these now mainly because of the potential security surrounding them, there does seem to be an increase in dodgy links lately, which I want to try and avoid. But just as with the member side of review sites, many of these are quite fun ways to find out a little bit more about your friends and colleagues. I also like to see other people's statuses, and this can often spark off a conversation on line, or even a trigger that it is probably about time we meet up again. I have to say I have one close friend who has an account but is very inactive. We live some distance apart and meet up about once a year for dinner and overnight stay at each other's houses etc. On my last visit it was quite bizarre - although never active, he knew exactly what had been going on, where we had been, all the key things I might have shared over the year, he obviously used the site in a limited way to read status updates etc...it was quite strange, not to have as much news as we normally have however! I do use the messages facility for sharing more private messages, either with individuals or with small groups - just in the same way as email really. Finally as organisations and companies can also have a Facebook page, I often subscribe to these too - that way I can see how they interact with customers, which is important if I want to do business with them, and can take advantage of any special offers and the like. My last employer has an official page and this was also great for keeping up with news in other areas of our estate (Hotel Company with 21 hotels). I think one of the main downsides of face-book is that you do need to be careful what you are posting and who is reading it - important from a career point of view. There have been many cases of individuals who have found they have been sacked for making negative comments about their employer, or for going sick after a night out or other such cringe worthy stories. Obviously adding your employer in the way I have done above does mean I need to be extra vigilant of what is posted - presumably my employer now know about my Farmville habit, but haven't held it against me. Surely there are other sites beside Facebook...? Well of course there are, and I use a few others selectively. There are literally hundreds of sites though including MySpace, Bebo etc, the likes of which I have never delved into. The site I use for professional networking purposes is Linkedin. This is an essential site for professionals, for networking, you never know when that next job is coming from. There are different levels of membership for Linkedin, and some of these can cost about the same as a phone contract per month, but I only have the basic free account, which is more than adequate for my needs. I am a hotel management professional, and the site is excellent for maintaining links to old colleagues, key recruitment agencies and the like, and again for subscribing to company feeds, to keep track of who is on the move. You can technically link to anyone, but information is much more secure on the whole. I have about 110 contacts here, and with their contacts, the potential network can be considerable. The focus is definitely on the career, and your profile can be adapted as to the kind of contact you want i.e. just getting in touch, reference requests, consulting projects, new job opportunities, that sort of thing. I have found it to be a much more professional way of staying in touch with people, particularly those that may be able to assist in the career in the future, and likewise I hope that it helps those that have worked with me in the past. Again the site has its cynics, including some of my colleagues, however my brother in law, who works in a niche field, and was looking to emigrate to Australia was able to make contact with someone key down under, secure an interview and then a job - by contrast the company saved considerable head hunting fees. It is an invaluable site to me, although I don't spend more than five minutes once or twice a week here. I also have a TWITTER account - this is the one that seems to be most favoured by the famous, with some high profile twitterers including Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry to name but two. I have to say, TWITTER has largely passed me by - the principle here is you simply are able to update your status with one liners, or 140 characters of text- now in principle this is similar to the Facebook status update, which I love, but I have never found the attraction in twitter, in fact if I try and log on I have usually forgotten the crucial information! Finally, I also use some more "traditional" forums to a degree. Currently I frequent about three, although tend to lurk at one rather than contribute. I contribute to Money Saving Expert and the Consumer Forum, and typically I find my contributions are in the Mortgage/House buying/Savings and Employment sections, which is in an advice giving capacity in the main. In the employment section, I have read/advised on more issues where someone is up for a disciplinary/dismissal for their facebook activity than I care to count - and I cannot make that point strongly enough.I have been contributing to these for a relatively short period of time, about six months, but I have contributed to other forums over the years, in a similar degree. I lurk at www.britishexpats.com which is a forum ran by, and with information for, you've guessed it, expats - or those who aspire to emigrate. I was introduced this by my sister who is a senior user and resident visa expert for Australia on the site - I joined as applying for a permanent visa is also something we have given plenty of consideration to over the last two years. SO: How important is Social Networking to me? I think it is very important, and I do spend quite a bit of time on my various favourite sites each day, but mostly spent on Facebook. There is no doubt it is changing communications completely - I must have had over 50 birthday messages a few days ago, but by contrast only two cards in the post...(I hear you say awwww, but it's probably sign of age..!), and I do think that I should spend less time online. But, on the other hand I am keeping in touch with 220 people in some form, and this would be impossible to do face to face or even via telephone. My oldest contact is 75 while my youngest probably 18. So I think Facebook and my other favourite forums might remain in my life for a bit longer yet. But I will let you know when I have conquered Farmville. However, you do need to think carefully how you use it, who you "trust" and which networks you subscribe to in particular (university, city, employer) as you could leave yourself unwittingly wide open for your information being shared with strangers.