Social Networks–Online and At The Beach

Social Networks--Online and At The Beach

There was a comical editorial in the Wall Street Journal about Social Networks.

This guy, Farhad Manjoo, is addicted to Twitter.

He writes: “I check it first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and about a billion times in between.”

And he admits he doesn’t understand his own addiction: “I’ve never been able to explain what I get out of Twitter, or exactly why I find it so enthralling.”

Manjoo is afraid of what an IPO will do to Twitter–will they have to advertise more, become more like Facebook, favor pictures over text, lose it’s strength in the area of breaking news–hopefully, he is referring to more than what he ate for breakfast!

People are spending inordinate amounts of time on social media–friending and following people they don’t even know!

Perhaps, it’s the fantasy–compliments of virtual reality on the Internet–of being associate–“friends” or “connected–with the rich, famous, powerful, and wise or with the kids who would beat us up in the schoolyard only years earlier.

Online–we’re all sort of friends, aren’t we?

Our avatars or online profiles don’t differentiate much between those we really like or not–we are free to pretty much follow anyone, anytime–unless they block you because you are annoying!

Virtual reality in social media–perhaps the great equalizer–the freedom fighters in the Middle East can post videos of the Sarin attacks as easily as the President can post his inaugural message.

The material is there and free for the ingest by everyone.

Social media has a purpose in bringing us together and spreading the word, videos, and pictures of the times–it make the big world smaller for us to get our arms around.

Then again, a social network of a few close family members or friends on the beach–also good, maybe better for the soul. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Homeless Yet Technology Bound

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I could not help being amazed with the article in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal called “On the Street and On Facebook: The Homeless Stay Wired.”

I was very struck by the seeming contradiction between near total poverty and yet being linked to one of the richest sources of information and human connection on earth.

The article is about people who are so poor and wanting that they are literally homeless—living in shelters, cars, under bridges—and yet with virtually no money for anything, they find that having a computer and an Internet connection is a necessity!

What a comment on the impact that information technology has on our lives and how it affects us every moment of every day. Three key points about the Internet and social media that stand out:

  1. They are no longer an option, but an answer to basic human needs.
  2. They provide a sense of basic equality and human dignity, as well as empowerment, even where those are otherwise lacking.
  3. Because they are so vital to people, they are serving to unlock great creativity and innovation by people to get connected.

Computers and the Internet connectivity we get with them is so important to us ALL that even homeless shelters are now rolling out computer stations—almost like an internet café or library. For example, NYC “has 42 computers in five of the nine shelters it operates and plans to wire the other four this year” and this is happening despite the devastating financial environment out there.

So do the homeless really use the computers? You better believe it—computer demand is so great in the shelters that users are limited to 30-minute intervals.

The homeless are finding the computers important for completing everything from housing and job applications to getting loads of inexpensive entertainment whether watching videos, listening to music or just getting the daily news.

The homeless are finding innovative ways to power their computers…some are using generators outside the tent homes, others are hooking up to their car batteries or finding a deserted area with a connection to steal away from for a brief hookup.

But the computer and the connectivity are critical for everyone whether you live in a mansion or in a shelter. Information technology provides for all our basic needs in terms unlimited information and opinion, a broad range of social entertainment, and all sorts of application services, but more importantly it confers basic humanity to all that use it. As one homeless man stated: “It’s frightening to be homeless. When I’m on here [the Internet], I’m equal to everyone else.”

And this is really a global idea, because people across the world—whether in countries that are free and those that are unfortunately still not—are finding that a simple computer and Internet connection can break down the barriers of political, social, or economic repression.

Information technology once feared as the great digital divide is becoming the great human equalizer indeed.