~ Archive for Social Networks ~

Social Network vs. Sociable Network

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So-called social networks are encouraging digital narcissism. They aren’t doing their job. Or at least people in my networks aren’t socializing in social networks. I suppose it’s because the “social” in “social network” has multiple meanings. Although people are socializing on a certain level, I find that more and more people are just using the network as a platform to boost their ego and promote themselves. This kind of digital narcissism greatly affects the kind of content they post their sites, since they are hugely interested in how others perceive them. (I’ve already talked about this in a previous post about political twittering.)

I am not against these networks that are becoming more and more of a profile database, but I believe that social networks can be used for actual networking and human interaction; which was one of the founding missions of Ewhaian. Perhaps we need a new social network where we can be more comfortable being an individual in a group instead of being a group of individuals. Though I dread that I may sound like a commie, I want a sociable network, not a social one (I wonder if there is such a term?). That is something Facebook- and all the other American SN sites lack. In some sense, I want to go back to the atmosphere that was generated in forums and “communities” back in the old days when the Internet was harnessed through services like CompuServe. (Being in Korea, I used Hitel, Chollian, Nownuri, and Netsgo- all of which have since disappeared.)

For instance, I am part of the Harvard network and have subscribed to a number of “groups” but the activity going on in those groups is very minimal and they don’t provide enough incentives for me to actively engage in them. I am a fan of MOMA, but aside from emails regarding exhibition updates, there is no real interaction with me and MOMA, nor me and other fans of MOMA. You may blame us- saying that we could take more initiative, but I think it’s also a matter of the interface; the current interface is terrible in making a generative community.

I think it’s terrible that at the end of the day, Internet services are based on programs consisting of 0s and 1s and as someone who doesn’t know how to write these programs, I can’t implement any ideas without an engineer.

Sociable Network: a network of people who socialize based on mutual interest of a certain topic, person, or network. The difference between a social network and a sociable network is that the latter places less importance on the individual, and more on the common interest.

Political Twittering

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Somewhat disappointing, twittering has become more of a method of communicating what you want people to perceive you as doing instead of what you are actually doing.

I find that twittering isn’t the comfortable, casual means of communications as it could be. There seems to be mainly three types of tweets- the political (strategic?) tweets, the emotional tweets, and the daily bored-with-nothing-else-to-do tweets. You would think that people would use a combination depending on their mood, but that seems to be a rare, at least with the people I know.

Twittering is almost as superficial as friendship (or the lack thereof) on Facebook. The most sincere tweets are coming from my cousin, who will be going to high school in the fall. She never seems to hide her emotions- whether it be hating her mother or lusting over a pop star. Very emotion-heavy, personal tweets also come from gay friends. For many others, however, it is more about showing off. It can be cute, but on a continual basis, it can be very annoying.

Superficial “Friendship” on Facebook

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One of the most disturbing elements in Facebook is vocubulary, and that it names your connections as “friends”. On the web, the definition of friend is different from that in real life. Not only can you befriend someone you don’t know, but you can also be a “friend” without actually taking any responsibility of a friend or carrying out actions that are “friendly.” In fact, friending on Facebook has become so easy– merely two clicks– that people are gauging a person’s offline popularity based on the number of friends on Facebook.

Not being able to categorize “friends” makes it difficult to use Facebook on the intimate level it could be used. Fortunately, Facebook’s most recent update (as I’ve mentioned before) has included more detailed privacy settings, but it still doesn’t allow you to group your friends into different groups. It becomes more difficult to be honest when Facebook is used for professional networking in addition to personal ones. For instance, I wrote this morning in my status: Y discovered that super-intelligent geeks can be extremely sexy. Less than a minute after I wrote that, I erased it because what if my co-workers saw it? Or what kind of impression would that make on someone who is a Facebook friend but doesn’t really know me? And for me, not being able to be truthful about my feelings makes me feel almost as bad as hiding them.

Another problem about friends in Facebook is not the technical, but emotional. As the word “friend” implies, I tend to develop friendly feelings for my Facebook friends, and get disappointed when that online status does not relate to offline (or even online) friendship. With some people, I would like to get to know them better in real life, but I don’t know if my online Facebook friendship status is enough to send a message and start a conversation without being misunderstood for having weird intentions.

You see, if Facebook hadn’t used the term “friend” but coined another term that has more of the connotation of “acquaintence,” I wouldn’t be puzzling over these issues.

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