Thursday, July 16, 2009

Social Networking - How Much Is Too Much?

Am I the only one out there who is getting sort of overwhelmed with social networking? When Twitter rolled out, and I understood the implication of tracking the minute by minute events in other people's lives, I was horrified. Years ago, I remember feeling the same way when cell phones became affordable and prevalent. I thought, "Why would I want to be accessible every minute of the day???"

There are two magazines on my bathroom floor. One is AARP Magazine's July/August issue, and the other is REALTOR(R) Magazine's March issue (OK, I'm a slow read when it comes to business publications).

AARP features a very amusing article by Hugh Delehanty, "Confessions of a Facebook Addict," in which he describes how he realized that he was an addict when, on a dream vacation, he sneaked into the bathroom at 3:00 a.m. to check his Facebook page. He became so obsessed with making new friends, especially collecting celebrity friends, it took awhile for him to realize that he was no longer participating in his own life, his passions, and his marriage.

AARP lists several social networking sites and their basic characteristics: Facebook.Com, MySpace.Com, LinkedIn.Com,, Twitter.Com. Of course, there really are thousands of online communities in the U.S. They don't mention Second Life, but if Facebook is addictive, imagine how seductive a virtual reality can be. In Second Life, you can be and have anything you want: Young, skinny, curvy, long hair or short, male or female. You can go to parties (without your spouse, who doesn't exist in your Second Life), dance, listen to your favorite bands. You can lounge in your beautifully decorated loft condo. You can even hook up!

The REALTOR(R) Magazine features (yet ANOTHER) article about social networking, "Managing Your Reputation In The Age Of Social Media." It's talking about the obvious sites like Zillow and Trulia, as well as agent/broker sites like ActiveRain. I know many agents who post almost every day on ActiveRain. This may sound like heresy, but I'm not sure that it enhances their businesses. Maybe yes for some, and no for others. I think it can be almost an escape to a real estate world in which they can still feel in control. I keep in touch with my clients and friends, and share relevant real estate news, through my monthly newsletter "Positively At Home." It's linked all month from my real estate web site.

So, here's why I'm not signing up for Twitter, or blogging every day on ActiveRain. I get over 300 e-mail messages a day. Many are from an online information/support group for Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) which I've hosted since 2005. There are over 600 members, and new members are joining every week. I started this group because my dad was diagnosed and treated in 2003. It's a busy, busy list, but very rewarding.

For over ten years, I have been an active volunteer and county coordinator for the USGenWeb Project, and any day of the week, I get genealogy list messages from various counties and states (that just reminded me that I need to vote in the National elections today!). Many of my personal messages are requests for look-ups or advice about research. Sometimes, they are offers to clean up or transcribe old cemeteries, and I sponsor several Eagle Scout projects for the Gwinnett County GAGenWeb.

I'm a "lurker" on a great postcard collecting list, and many of the members (all over the world) have been collecting for over 50 years. My interest is in pre-1914 postcards of particular cities, but I enjoy learning about the hobby and hearing the stories of other collectors.

I'm a Budget Geek who assigns every dollar a job each month, and keeps in touch with my budget and bank account almost every day. I'm active on a budget message board because while we may be in different boats, we're all paddling up the same river.

I also love music and books, and occasionally, I check in with message boards for my favorite authors or book series, TV shows, and musicians. I want to know what others think about things, what's going on (the next album release, the next book release, the next TV appearance). I confess that I really appreciate that Kris Allen twitters the fans on his web site every day.

I joined Classmates.Com prior to my last high school reunion, and I check in occasionally to see if any additional classmates have signed up. I've never been particularly sentimental about my high school years, but years later, I've found it to be a lot of fun to connect with other people who remember the same teachers, old hang-outs, etc.

So, the next time I get an e-mail or magazine urging me to take the plunge into "social networking," I think I'll just DELETE, and go back to following my own passions.

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