A NYT's article from two weeks ago discussed briefly how online social networking and the offline world have historical overlap. I had hoped the article would speak to the mainstream world that isn’t involved in the technology blogosphere but I haven't read much discussion.
I don’t mean the term mainstream in derogatory way; quite the contrary, I think it’s important that Silicon Valley and the technology blogosphere actually understand how the rest of the world views social networking if we ever expect to monetize in a way that is a win-win for the companies and for the people.
While the article addresses the possible connections between online social networking and tribal societies, I think the most intriguing and most misunderstood aspect of social networking comes at the end of Rich’s column:
The more time we spend “talking” online, the less time we spend, well, talking. And as we stretch the definition of a friend to encompass people we may never actually meet, will the strength of our real-world friendships grow diluted as we immerse ourselves in a lattice of hyperlinked “friends”?
It’s a valid question to ask whether the development and retention of online friends comes at the expense of at the benefit of our online friends.
But Rich does the non-blogosphere world, everyday people who may view the online world with skepticism, a disservice by how he asks the question: it sounds like a natural conclusion that real-world friendships will suffer at the expense of increasing our offline friends. We’re all buys and we only have so much time in day.
The problem is that the question has been researched and initial results show that online connections do not come at the expense of offline connections. I posted about Benkler’s amazing book, The Wealth of Networks, a couple of times before and he specifically addresses the question.
The types of friends that we develop online are different from more traditional offline friendships, they’re more fluid and temporary, but they don’t cause a decrease in people’s numbers of offline friendships.
What's a good way to make meaningful online social connections? Blogging
I tell everyone I know to think about blogging because you do make personal connections with people and those online connections translate into offline connections:
- Blogging is a an outlet for your passion and interests (Cory Doctorow calls it your "outboard brain")
- You meet passionate people who read, comment, and engage in conversations with you
- I landed a job interview because of my blog
Yes, it takes time to blog but in the long run, you get more out of than you put into it.
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