I set up my first internet account in 1995 when I bought a new Macintosh Performa computer. The little red mail truck in eWorld announced the arrival of messages to my inbox, which were few and far between. The internet was exciting. There were few graphics and any news photos downloaded at a painfully slow pace. In 1998 I planned a trip to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, booked all our motels on the internet, and printed off maps of our route. Our computers were used more for games and word processing in those years.
For someone who started on the internet fairly early, I fell off the cutting edge very quickly. Last year I became aware of the fact that the younger members of the family were communicating on My Space, collecting friends, and posting pictures and blogs. I definitely did not belong on the My Space site and found instead a comfortable platform on Blogger.
Enter Facebook, the new essential social networking site. What started as a network for colleges and workplaces is now open to everyone. I estimate the average age of its users to be 25 years old, but my very cool aunts, who are a generation older than me, are also on Facebook. I signed up 2 weeks ago and my list of friends include family and acquaintances I haven't been in contact with for some time. I received a friend request yesterday from someone I hadn't seen in 24 years and it was interesting to catch up on what their family was doing. I have read that some workplaces are banning Facebook as it can be a very addictive pastime. I really don't care to know what mood people are in, or the latest food fight they have engaged in, and am not trying to collect friends like trophies. I have been playing a Facebook Scrabble game with our Neuropsychologist for the past 10 days (off work hours of course!). My handicap is an IQ that is at least 20 points lower than his, but it has been lots of fun anyway. I belong to a few groups including Canadians over 50, my workplace group, and a group that shares my maiden surname.
I know only a handful of people on my street and see them infrequently. No one sits out on a front porch and chats with the neighbours any more. Our lives are busy and are often centred outside our neighbourhoods. Yet social contact is essential so we are reinventing ways to connect with people and make new friends.
There will be something newer and more exciting than Facebook soon, in fact, it is probably out there already. Regular email has become more impersonal as it is used more and more for business, advertising and spam. Blogger remains my favourite outlet for creativity, learning, and meeting new people. I enjoy visiting with people face to face most of all.
Diane, one of my FB friends, (and a flesh and blood friend), posted this picture she took while on holidays at the lake this month. This young Mennonite family took time away from the farm to enjoy the beach. I am sure they are not meeting friends online and that they belong to a far more traditional social network.
Are you connected to an electronic social network? Has it changed the way you make and keep friends?