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Style Magazine

Social Networking

Dec 30, 2009 04:07AM ● By Wendy Sipple

Illustration by John Stricker

I noticed my daughter was spending a lot of time on the computer.

I thought she was doing homework (clicking away at a keyboard has become the 21st century equivalent of carrying a clipboard. The act alone looks busy). Then I glanced over her shoulder. Just before she shrieked like a vampire whose coffin had been opened at noon on the Fourth of July, I saw a multitude of photos of her friends, all of whom looked to be at the greatest party ever.

“What are you doing?” I asked.
“None of your business! It’s my computer.”
“It’s my life!”
“It won’t be for long if you don’t tell me what you’re doing.”
So she explained.
“This is how you stay in touch with friends?”
“Why don’t you get together in person?”
She made a face like she had a mouthful of earthworms.

Now, I’m not a technological Neanderthal. I email. I text. I’ve blogged. But social networking has been foreign. Actually, it was more than that. It seemed geeky. To me, Brad Paisley’s song “Online” summed it up: “Even on a slow day/I can have a three-way/chat/with two women at one time/I’m so much cooler online.” It was the place where folks with no life pretended to have one.

But I decided to investigate and logged onto a site. I even tried to register, but the “quick and easy” sign-up was no match for my ADHD and I logged off when I was asked to type in “Maximum Puppies” by that weird lettering thing that’s supposed to be some kind of security device (which, by the way, is where I predict all rock band names will come from in the future).

Soon though, I realized nearly everyone I knew had a site, from the young folks at work to my siblings, all of whom qualify for residency in Sun City. Then one day a consultant visited our offices and explained the advantages of social networking as a marketing tool. Of course that message appealed to management because unlike real marketing, social networking is free. Geeky or not, we soon established a Facebook site for our morning radio show and were inundated with “friend requests” as soon as we announced it. Suddenly writing the daily blog for our Web page seemed like spray painting messages on a wall nobody was walking by. This is where the party was.

And what a party! There were games with goofy names like Farkle, Yoville, and Mafia Wars. There was insane chatter, like Bob, who wondered, “Is it 5:00 yet?” or Alice, declaring she “felt like having a muffin.” There were people trading recipes and showing off kid photos. There was even meaningful discourse, like Dave posting his thoughts on healthcare with a dozen mostly-lucid replies. All that was missing was a keg on the back patio.

At the time, I found myself wanting to criticize it, but I couldn’t. And now, months later, I still can’t. Not without being a hypocrite anyway. I use our show site often and have even created a personal site for my family. Okay, yes, I could go the rest of my life not knowing how Scott did at the Farmville County Fair, and yes, virtual pillow fights are for dorks, but I do like staying in touch with our audience. And on my personal page, I stay up to date with family and have re-connected with old friends. That ain’t so bad, is it?

At our core, we’re social animals and it doesn’t matter if we interact online, offline, or in a line – we want to feel connected to each other. So what if 90 percent of what’s posted is the intellectual equivalent of empty carbs? That just makes it not much different from reality. Social networking should never take the place of an evening out with friends (and no question there are plenty who don’t quite understand that), but I’ll admit it serves a purpose, and at its best can strengthen the bonds between us. In short, I’m sold. But I am SO staying away from Twitter.

Find more of Tom's Takes here, and make sure to catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1.