Friday, December 6th, 2013

The power of social networking

The power of Facebook – and social networking, for that matter – is extraordinary.
Chances are, anyone who actively uses a Facebook, Myspace or similar account has been reunited with an old classmate, friend or former colleague.
Some have made new friends, or more. More than two years ago, a guy named Jason e-mailed me through Myspace asking me about my greyhound, whose picture I had as my main profile photo. We struck up a conversation, exchanged some e-mails, eventually met – and two years later were married.
Social networking allows “friends” to chat with each other live. It allows friends to see when the other posts new pictures of her children, or allows one person to post an article that caught his attention and might be of interest to others. It allows you to stay up-to-date on the lives of people you know well, or those you may have never spoken to again if not for Facebook or Myspace.
Last week, I was sick and posted a status update mentioning how I wish I felt better. A couple days later, I sent birthday wishes through Facebook to a former college classmate, who now lives in New Jersey and I haven’t spoken to in more than 10 years. He responded back “Thanks” and said, “Hope you’re feeling better.”
It wasn’t until this past week, however, that I realized how extraordinary social networking is.
Many of you, if female, may have received the same e-mail I did on Facebook. In your status window, the e-mail encouraged, type the color of the bra you are wearing, and that’s it. Then, pass the e-mail along to only your women friends. The reason – to show solidarity among women and raise awareness about the fight against breast cancer.
Maybe it was a silly idea. I sat there for a second, trying to decide whether I wanted to play a role in this experiment, wondering if I would be the only one with a random color as my status update. Did it even really matter? Was it really going to make a difference?
Chances are, not likely. But I decided to play along. So I posted the color.
I have a little more than 200 friends on Facebook. I would say I regularly communicate with maybe 10, and only forwarded the message to about six or seven females. As the day progressed, an amazing thing happened. More and more women began posting a color as their status update – people who I did not send the message to and people who have no connection to one another.
Others in their status boxes began questioning why they were seeing colors, asking, “Am I missing something?”
The next day, several articles began popping up online, including one on the New York Times Web site, explaining the previous day’s phenomenon. No one knows who or how many people sent the original e-mail. But someone did. And then someone passed it along. And then someone passed it along again. And then somewhere along that chain I got the e-mail, and passed it along.
Chain letters are nothing new. But before social networking, you never really knew how far and wide they stretched.
Some argue social networking isn’t personal enough, while others argue it’s too personal or invasive. I can’t fault either argument.
What I will say, though, is that social networking is fascinating. It can’t happen without a people element. It’s driven by emotions, interests and curiosity. It’s driven by the want – and maybe even the need – to reach out to others during a time when our lives are consumed with happiness, anger, fear, humor or uncertainty. And I don’t think you can get any more human than that.

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