Welcome to the world of social networking
Are you on Facebook? Do you Twitter? Are you LinkedIn?
Sorry to tell you this, but a recent New York Times article said not being online today is akin to not existing. Even AARP is planning to find you on online to help you make the world a better place (and you know they will find you.)
So where do you stand?
I surveyed friends to see if they used any social networking sites, of which Facebook (FB), Twitter and LinkedIn are the three most popular. I’m hoping to convince you that there’s fun to be had by giving the sites a try even if you presently feel like my friends Tom, Susan, Michael and JoAnne.
“I have enough ‘real time’ friends who can be a pain,” said Tom. “Why would I need another bunch of virtual friends who are probably the same or worse?”
Or Susan Hopkins in Florida who sent this letter she saw in the The Weekly Standard. “All of a sudden my grown-up friends have all joined and refusing to have a Facebook page has become an anti-social act. Do you really want to know when your true love from grade school is cleaning up her cat’s hairballs, or that the balding guy you idolized in college is ‘glad it’s the weekend’? Down with Facebook, says I. It’s like the world’s worst high school reunion—a reunion you can never leave.”
And from my hip classmate Michael who I found on Classmates.com, “I didn’t get a cell phone until three years ago and didn’t get cable TV until about two years ago, so no, I’m not on Facebook.”
Oh well, Michael, at least you still have your hair.
Finally from my friend JoAnne Spoto Decker who said she only got involved because I sent her “this (expletive deleted) e-mail!”
I registered and have been getting notices that I don’t want to respond to, for example, an old relationship from 33 years ago! I don’t want to find lost friends. Friends I want to keep aren’t lost.”
When asked if she made interesting connections that would not have happened in any other way, she replied, “that’s what I’m afraid of!”
On the “those who love it” side, let’s start with Trisha Torrey, of Every Patients Advocate and Ask.com, who prefers Twitter.
“I’ve used it to ask questions of doctors and other health professionals I would never otherwise have access to, and to find other patients who have similar concerns to mine. It’s been a goldmine of knowledgeable people who respond within minutes. Amazing tool.”
“I use social networking sites to research individuals with whom I may be doing business or involved in a negotiation,” said Ralph Valente, senior vice president sales and marketing for a technology distribution company. “As a professional vetting tool, I’m there in full disclosure and also I’m always looking for an angle, an entry point for conversation, mutual interests or experiences, etc. As far as checking it regularly, I never go there through my own initiative (other than for research), but I am often there responding to others who annoyingly now use it as a substitute for email. And no, I’m not interested in what my friends are serving their children for dinner!”
Beth Finkel from AARP said, “I’m on it all the time, connecting with what’s going on with friends, family and the AARP family, not to mention long lost friends and acquaintances. It’s also interesting to see what my kid’s friends post! I send out blurbs on where I am if I’m at an AARP event and also track what my colleagues are doing in other states for good ideas. I check my FB page a number of times a day and it’s now on my Blackberry. I recently heard from someone who met her husband at my sweet 16 party and now they are grandparents. That was nice!”
For non-business ideas on using Facebook, Sue Friedland sums up what a number of people responded in the survey: “This is just another way of keeping in touch with friends and family.”
She’s had some interesting conversations with her favorite nephew who was quite happy to see her on Facebook and she also reconnected with long lost schoolmates on Classmates.com.
My sister-in-law, Naomi Blumenthal, taught equine business management for years and now runs horse shows around the country. “I have heard from hundreds of former students and also found long lost schoolmates,” said Blumenthal. “I check the site when I get a message on my e-mail that someone found me or every few days just to keep up.”
Typical of many responses are these three:
• Bob Herz, who urged me to try FB, said “I don’t consciously use it, but it’s fun to have people I know, but haven’t been in contact with for years, get in touch with me.”
• Robin A., who “really loves FB!” said, “I have lots of friends my age and older who also have accounts. It is amazing the people you can find that you have not been in touch with for a while.”
• And Hedda, who wrote, “My daughter filled everything out for me and then said, “Mom, you’re on and you can’t ‘friend’ me!”
Dorothy Jordon, a New York City-based author, said when I asked if she’s found long lost friends, “Are friends really ever ‘lost’? At any rate, I look for folks whom I haven’t spoken with/seen in a while and wonder where they are and what they’re doing and certainly have ended up in touch with folks I might not have otherwise. And even though I’m not really in business anymore, I still like to see what my former colleagues are up to.
Some only promote their work; others offer useful tips. And having lost a son, I am also friends with some of his (Russell’s) friends and that is good for me. I like to see what they are doing (and they’re probably among the chattiest of my ‘friends’). In some ways, it brings me even closer to Russell, as strange as that might sound.”
Jordon’s friend, Julie Simon, wrote that “I got hooked on Facebook last year during preparations for my 40th high school reunion and recently set up an account for my 93 year-old mother.”
A gal after my own heart is Carol, who said she joined to “check her niece’s profile on Facebook so she could fix her up with a friend’s son.” And then there’s Stewart Koenig who just had lunch with his freshman college roommate whom he hadn’t been in contact with for 35 years until reconnecting on Facebook.
Take a tip from my other sister-in-law Stephanie, “my nieces made me sign up for Facebook and I use it mostly to look at pictures my friends and family post, even though I would still rather use e-mail,” and dip your toes in and try it out. If you know how to get online and send e-mail, then you can figure this out too. It might surprise you how much fun it can be.