Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Social Networking Virutal vs Reality

I got into playing with social networking as a way to educate myself. Being the observant person that I am I started to notice some trends. I've been talking about some of them with an online friend "C.W." who believes that treating an online Friend as you would a real friend is foolish, but after a while I think "C.W." is starting to have a different opinion of the matter. I've been toying with writing something about this in my mind, but then I saw the posting from The Bottled Leopard (who I don't know, but seems to be a very bright woman, you should check out her postings) and it kicked my ideas into the front of my head, well I guess to my fingers since I'm typing this.

I've been "playing" with the social networking site Twinkle for the past couple of months (actually for us old farts Twinkle is very much like CompuServe and Delphi back in the early 1990's, though no chat rooms in Twinkle). It's been interesting to see it grow from people just talking locally, to people talking all over the world. I've made "friends" and "enemies", I've had people attack me for no other reason than they are bored and I've had people try to seduce me for the same reason (not really into either virtually to be honest). For someone like me it's an interesting arena to play in because I'm a people person and I'm told I'm a natural flirt (I don't mean to do it honestly, it just happens, I think it's because I'm nice to people).

I've run into several kinds of people here, this isn't a complete list, but given my vast back ground in psychology, this is what I came up with (my vast background was a class in high school I think, but it was such a long time ago I consider myself an expert now, I can tell people that I've studied psychology for over 20 years, it's more than that, but I'm not telling my age without being asked nicely first):

Shock and Awe - These are people who will say something, anything to get a reaction from the crowd watching. It can be sexual, it can be mean, it can be a joke. I can do this very well myself, but I found over time it became boring. I prefer dealing with people vs shocking them. I've had a few people try to pick fights with me in shock and awe, they don't realize that it doesn't bother me and that I don't get flustered easy (it also helps that I'm relatively bright and much smarter than the people who do the stupid stuff).

People Persons - This is me, though with all the other people out there pretending to be someone else, it's tough to get people to believe that you actually want to be their friend, hold a conversation that doesn't involve body parts or foul language. In this role I've become counselor to several younger people (between 18 and 35), I've let others know that if they see something odd that I'm there to assist if needed. I've sat and listened to the kids tell me about their lives, most of them are good, but many are bad. When I see this I think it's a shame that the parents aren't more involved with their up bringing.

Hookups - I've had a couple of people start to proposition me online, but once they realize I'm there to be friends, they back off. My female friends online seem to be getting many offers, some have been shared with me and I find it a bit hilarious. I've had several friends have people want to meet them offline, for several reasons I see this as a bad idea. I'll get into it more below.

Casual Users - There are people who just post what their doing, they might respond to a question, most likely they will ignore you. They see this as an extension of Twitter and micro-blogging (which is it's intended use), not a chat room (which is what it's become).

Practical Jokesters - I like these the best, there is one guy on the site, who I've spoken with. He's a software developer, but he pretends to be someone who's very big in his business and very important. He posts one-sided conversations with himself, even making up names to respond to. It's interesting to see, not sure what his goal is other than making the extreme upper class look foolish, I'm not sure if he's doing that, but he's very entertaining.

Virtual vs Reality

I went into this swearing that I wouldn't break the line between the two, but as I've gotten to know people I see this line blurring some. Some of the people are great to meet on the phone or via email, other's I don't want to meet via either method, rather just have a virtual friend. I'm still not sure about meeting anyone in person, I think I would have to really get to know the person first or meet in a group. I try to leave all my PII (Personally Identifiable Information) out of any conversations, people email me at an address I've set up just for this kind of traffic (not that I have a lot, but as soon as people realize I know about computers, I start getting questions). I share what I do and my first name, but that's it. I have some "friends" who've shared too much information with me and with others, I really hope that doesn't come back and bite them.

I have developed virtual friendships that are very much like real friendships. We have fun together, chatting, but we also share our troubles, dreams and successes, we also have fights and make up. I would be as upset if anything bad happened to a virtual friend as I would if something happened to one in real life. The psychology behind this has got to be fascinating.

Everyone, myself included, is a little bit more attractive online, the reason behind this is that we don't drag a lot of our everyday baggage along with us. We can be who we think we are, instead of who we really are. No one has an accent (OK the people in the UK definitely have an accent when they type, not sure how they do that), and the few people I've spoken with on the phone all have accents, and they've all commented on my accent (I guess it's a little Southern, I know I should have told you before hand, so you could have read this with a Southern accent to start with, but I swear it isn't that pronounced).


I see a lot of young people on here doing and saying very scary things. If I were a parent, actually I am a parent, I wouldn't let my child anywhere near these applications. These applications are not for the young, period, even if it was a site with other young children I would question letting my child use it without supervision. They also aren't for the easily embarrassed or upset. I see many people who loose their lid and start "flaming" everyone and everything, they would be better off with a beer watching TV. There are also people who go out and provoke fights, they'll call you names, etc... Best to ignore them, if you can't, then you should be elsewhere.

Also note if someones too perfect, too pretty, too willing to do what you want, too nice, they might not be what or who you think they are. Be very careful with perfection, people are flawed.


In conclusion I think these sites are interesting places to kill time, they can be extremely addictive. Be very careful about who you make friends with, people will try to make you believe something they aren't, including guys pretending to be women. Do not let your children on these sites and don't post anything that your mother or pastor would be upset in seeing. They are a good place to have fun, but realize that's all it is. The friends you need to vet carefully, but over time you 'll be able to tell friends from foe.


Sara said...

I saw all of your comments on my friend's blog and I decided to check your's out.

I think that the internet is good for entertainment and information purposes, but I'm stilla little old fashioned in using it as a place to meet "real" friends or life partners. I think we actually need to talk face to face to do that.

However, I really like blogging.

Unknown said...

@sara Thank you for visiting :). I tend to side with you, but I've seen the people using these different forums that run into people with similar thought processes and form Meetups and bridge the gap into the "real" world. I remember doing this with a professional user group that I frequented using CompuServe back in the early 1990's.

I think that blogging is important, it keeps your thought process going, but I think it can also be dangerous if you put too much information online or if you put information that an employer might not agree with.