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picture of social networking

I received a cartoon from a reader that got me thinking about the current sensation known as social networking. Although it's primarily a rage among the younger generation, many older folks are into it as well. Some readers might remember my telling earlier this year about a long-time family friend (and ivman reader, I might add), a widower in his eighties who met a widow in her eighties using eHarmony. They are now happily married.

Anyway, below is the cartoon I received:

cartoon about Facebook

Facebook is a intriguing concept and being "friends" on Facebook is an interesting phenomenon. People are able to get back in touch with people that they have known but with whom they've lost contact. It's been great fun to find an old acquaintance on Facebook or to hear from someone out of the clear blue and get caught up on their lives. Once in a while, though, when someone asks me to become friends on Facebook, I really have to think hard to come up with how we know each other. If I can't think of it, I just confirm, rather than hurt someone's feelings. As of this writing, my "friend" count is 632! One colleague (and ivman reader) is 41 friends shy of 2,000! It was fun last week to have over 80 friends "write on my wall" to wish me happy birthday in at least 4 languages, some even offering condolences! Most of those people, however, would never have known or remembered it was my birthday, had it not been for Facebook. There are all kinds of other forms of social networking out there, some better than others, and some far worse than others.

One form of social networking that I have not explored and am not sure I would even want to is Twitter. This fall I attended a workshop during Faculty In-Service called "To Twitter or Not to Twitter." The presenter of the workshop has a business where he requires all his employees to Twitter. I cannot imagine that there would be that many people who would be interested in wanting to get frequent updates on my every movement and thought. Do any of you Twitter? If so, what do you like about it?

I saw a cartoon a while back that kind of sums up what I've seen happen on several blogs I used to visit....

cartoon about Twitter

I don't want that to happen to my blog!

Living in an age of technology and almost instantaneous communication, we might be surprised to learn how advanced some older societies actually were....

Ancient Social Networks

After having dug to a depth of 10 meters last year, Scottish scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 100 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the Scots, in the weeks that followed, English scientists dug to a depth of 20 meters, and shortly after, headlines in the English newspapers read, "English archaeologists have found traces of 200-year-old copper wire and have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network a hundred years earlier than the Scots."

One week later, "The Kerrymen," a southwest Irish newsletter, reported the following: "After digging as deep as 30 meters in peat bog near Tralee, Paddy O'Droll, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing. Paddy has therefore concluded that 300 years ago, Ireland had already gone wireless."


One of the fun things about Facebook is viewing and accessing pictures posted by your friends. Our daughter Megan recently posted some pictures of our grandson Drew who enjoys pointing to his facial features to show he knows the words. I've put them together in a collage....

collage of pictures of Drew

We're looking forward to some wonderfully real social networking later this month when we rendez-vous for a weekend in Cincinnati with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. I'll tell you all about it in a future blog post. 🙂

I cannot begin to list all various social media, but here are a few - online social networks (like Facebook), blogging, e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging, Twitter, etc. In many ways social networking strikes me as paradoxical - it focuses on relationships and community, but it also seems to encourage our human bent towards narcissism. The whole concept brings many questions to my mind. What are your thoughts about some of the various forms of social networking? Do you participate in it? Does it strengthen or weaken relationships? Does it deepen or cheapen friendship? How many close friendships is it possible to maintain at once? Are there dangers in today's social networking? I look forward to some good discussions in the comments to this post.


"Our hearts are idol factories." - John Calvin

=^..^= =^..^=

Your secrets are safe with me and all my friends.

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20 Comments on “Networking”

  1. #1 Deb
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Belated Happy Birthday, Rob! I’m a blog reader but not a Facebooker (although my sister has tried her best to get me to join and be “her friend”), so unfortunately I didn’t know about your special day…And I have no earthly idea about this twittering. LOL! I think sticking with just blogging is enough to fill my time. I hope your day was a great one! Great pics of Drew!

  2. #2 Rob
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 8:48 am

    @Deb – Thanks for the birthday greetings. It was a nice, fairly standard day. Two of my classes didn’t even know it was my b-day, so there was very little hoopla throughout the day.

    I can just imagine Bet trying to get you to join Facebook. 🙂

  3. #3 Dave Newell
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 10:55 am

    After a very long time I caved in to 1) Facebook, 2) Blogging, and 3) Twitter (in that order). I should have stopped while I was ahead. The first two were great decisions. Facebook connected me with friends, blogging provided an outlet for my creative/delirious mind…I’ve yet to see how Twitter profits me and others. Maybe in time I’ll like Twitter but for right now I’ll remain a grumpy 23-year-old who sees change and technology as necessary evils.

  4. #4 Nancy
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 11:18 am

    You ask in this blog post: Do any of you Twitter? Yes, but not to worry, my doctor thinks we can take care of it. Thanks for asking, Rob.

  5. #5 Wally Lamark
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    My family thinks, generally, that social networking can be very dangerous. If, perhaps, someone wants to stalk you, a Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, blog, et al would be very easy to monitor. I like the general idea myself, because many of my friends and associates have such media. I view what is available, but I have no such networking venues of my own.

  6. #6 Michael
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    I have a Facebook account, but I rarely update it for two reasons. One is that we don’t have a great Internet connection at home and the other is that I have found it to be a huge time drain, and I’d like to use my time for other things. I personally have not yet found the great attraction to Facebook, but I can see how it is a great way to keep up with people who are separated from me by distance. Therefore, the problem points back to me since I normally just keep up with the people that I come in contact with on a regular basis.

    I do agree that phenomena such as Facebook do promote self-indulgence and egotism. The temptation is to put all this stuff out there about yourself so that others will like you and will want to be your friends. I think it’s disturbing how so many people (especially young people) are getting sucked into social networking sites and even into something as simple as text messaging. Seems like people are communicating more than ever before but the communication is in a virtual community. We’re losing the ability to talk to one another. The art of conversation is vanishing. We need to pull ourselves away more often from our cell phones and computers and talk to the people God has actually put literally and physically into our lives.

    About the only online networking thing that I have really enjoyed is instant messaging. I loved the challenge of trying to keep four or five conversations going at once and chats were downright hilarious sometimes. However, there again, IM was a big time drain and I had to just stop doing it and go to bed.

  7. #7 Bet
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Funny you should ask about Twitter, Rob. Just last night I registered for a Twitter account b/c I keep hearing in journalistic circles how relevant/valuable/necessary it is. I’ll let you know how it goes. So far all I’ve done is sign up.

  8. #8 Rob
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    @Nancy – I chuckled for quite a while after reading your comment. In my mind’s eye, I can see you twittering.

    @Wally Lamark – I agree that there are some inherent dangers in social networking. I share information about our lives and about our family on my blog, but I try to be very careful in what I share.

    @Michael – You’re right about what a huge time consumer Facebook can and does become for many. I allow myself no more than 5 or 10 minutes a day on Facebook. I usually look no farther than my front page (whatever they call it … home?), mainly just to see if anyone has written anything specifically to me and to see if there’s anyone I’d like to wish a happy birthday. And that’s about it. I rarely put anything out there and rarely update my profile picture. I just updated my status the other day to say that I post to my blog on Monday evenings and Thursday mornings so that people can go there for any news I care to share.

    @Bet – You’ll definitely have to tell me what you think of Twitter. Did you see Dave Newell’s comment? He said he’s yet to see any profit in Twitter. Nancy’s twittering, but that’s just her twittery self … no signing up for anything necessary.

  9. #9 Katy
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    LOL, great cartoons! Drew looks like he’ll be a baseball coach one day – those hand signals, very cute!

    On Facebook and Twitter, I’ve been able to connect with a few cousins that I wouldn’t otherwise talk to. Are you on LinkedIn? That is a useful business networking medium.

    I’ve found the SNS to be very clever.

  10. #10 Carrie
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    First of all, I love the pictures of Drew! He has lost his baby look. I do have a blog, and I spend way less time than I used to (maybe like your comic) but I think at first it was a little excessive. I would love to have a Facebook account since I am very sociable and have also moved away from my hometown, but my husband wisely suggested that I might possibly waste time doing it. I know he’s right, so for me it’s not best. I keep plenty busy homeschooling, caring for my family and knitting.

  11. #11 Rob
    on Oct 10th, 2008 at 5:58 am

    @Katy – My son-in-law would be thrilled if Drew becomes a baseball coach someday. 🙂 I’m glad you’re using Facebook and Twitter to great advantage, especially with several family relationships. I’d never heard of LinkedIn and just looked it up. It sounds like it’s for the business world. Is that the case? Also, what is SNS? I did a Google search and the results were like playing Beyond Balderdash – there are so many things out there that SNS stands for! 🙂 I’m assuming it has something to do with social networking.

    @Carrie – We’re looking forward to seeing Drew later this month. It’s definitely become a toddler instead of a baby. Facebook is really a neat concept and you can use it as much or as little as you want. If life is fine without it, I’d say let it continue that way. As Michael said in his comment, we all should be concentrating on our relationships with those whom the Lord has put us with geographically. With your extended family all over the place, you can keep up with the phone, your blog, and e-mail for exchanging info and pictures.

  12. #12 Katy
    on Oct 10th, 2008 at 10:08 am

    SNS=social networking sites. You gotta get the lingo 🙂
    Yes, LinkedIn is for business connections. There are so many different SNS for different purposes, you just can’t join them all.

  13. #13 Rob
    on Oct 10th, 2008 at 10:26 am

    @Katy – Thanks for explaining that to this poor grandpa. 😀 I would like to graciously say (as well as to graciously split infinitives) that this grandpa is outpacing some grandpas though. How many grandpas do you know who have an active blog, who text message on their cell phones, and who go down Sliding Rock (which I hope to do again this weekend when my best friend, his three sons, my son and I go camping in the mountains)? If you weren’t checking my blog out this summer, you’ll have to look at the post with the picture of me doing Sliding Rock – http://blog.ivman.com/non-olympic-moments. I can’t wait (that is, if I can talk the rest of the gang into going there.) 🙂

  14. #14 Amanda
    on Oct 10th, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Sometimes I think I’m a sorry excuse for a young person…I had never heard of Twitter before reading your blog entry! I did succumb to Facebook over the summer, however. It was a good way for me to keep in touch with the friends I had made at school. But as a general rule, I still prefer talking to people in person, and when that isn’t feasible, calling or e-mailing them. Facebook just isn’t as personal. I can say that I am actually friends with all thirty of my Facebook friends though!

  15. #15 Heather
    on Oct 10th, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    It seems to me that these sorts of networking sites are what one makes of them. There is a huge potential for wasting time. On the other hand, I am thankful to have a way to stay connected with friends I have made over the years. I certainly don’t have time to maintain 150+ correspondences, but I do still care about 150+ lives.

  16. #16 Sue
    on Oct 11th, 2008 at 9:09 am

    I love facebook! But I do see the danger of wasting a lot of time on it. It has been a great way for me to keep up with family and friends across the miles. Considering all the friends with whom I am able to quickly and easily communicate, it can also be a time saver – faster than email and cheaper than texting – if used carefully.

  17. #17 Sue
    on Oct 11th, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    You know, being the “iv man” makes you a bit of a celebrity. Those who became subscribers without having met you in person know a lot more about you than you know about them… you may have some facebookers requesting you as a friend whom you do not actually know. Midway through the Olympics, an interviewer speaking with Michael Phelps mentioned that Michael had reached his facebook “friend” limit and could no longer accept any more even if he wished!

  18. #18 Rob
    on Oct 12th, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    @Amanda – Don’t feel bad about not knowing about Twitter. I actually hear very few people I know in real life mention it, and I have absolutely no intention of exploring it. (Keep in mind … I’m the guy who said he didn’t want e-mail because he didn’t think he’d use it much – I was talked into it by my wife’s at-that-time 75-year-old aunt. I’m also the guy who resisted having one of my young geek friends get me set up on a blog because I didn’t think I’d use it either.) But really, I can’t keep up with all the technology in my life currently. If Twitter simplified everything else I’ve got going on, then maybe…. I’m glad you are actually friends will all your FB friends. I may be and just don’t know it.

    @Heather – You’re right on with your comment. Make of FB what you want it to be. My FB friends might be shocked to know how very little time I spend on FB. 🙂

    @Sue – You made some good points about Facebook. I probably don’t use it as efficiently as I could. It’s like much of the rest of information-related technology – it can save you some time, but unfortunately you have to spend a lot of time with it to learn how to use it as efficiently as possible. I assure you, I have no danger of maxing out on my number of FB friends like Michael Phelps did. 😀

  19. #19 Karen
    on Mar 5th, 2009 at 8:18 pm


    Thanks so much for your “blague.” I read almost everything and also a fan of words and puns. Facebook seems to like such a waste of time. The time could be better spent reading a good book, actually having a cup of coffee with a real live person, baking something special for a lonely person at your church, writing a thank you note to someone who needs the encouragement, volunteering at an elementary school listening to at-risk-children read, or take a long walk, talking with God. Facebook seems like such a plastic, pseudo type friendship. Quality, not quantity is my word for the day.

  20. #20 Rob
    on Mar 5th, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    @Karen – I’m glad you enjoy my blog. I have found that Facebook is useful on quite a few levels, but I spend maybe only 5 minutes each day on it. I wish people happy birthdays whose birthdays would otherwise slip by me, unbeknownst to me if it weren’t for FB. I actually am able to nab some pictures of our grandson that get posted there by our daughter and some of her closest friends – photos that I may not see otherwise. 🙂 Just this morning I noticed that a young man who graduated from BJ last year and is now teaching English in China was logged into FB, so he and I IM’ed for about 10 minutes. I was able to give him some pointers in making his grading of student compositions go faster. So I had to admit that there is some real social benefit to me from the networking of FB, but I have to agree that many of the “friendships” are quite plastic. I’ve reconnected with high school and college classmates (we may be gearing up for our 40-year reunion this summer) and also with former students from as long as 36 years ago. But then after the initial “friending” has taken place, most of us are in about as much touch as we had been for however many years we had not been in touch. 😀 One can maintain only so many quality relationships.

    All in all, Facebook is a neat tool that has allowed me to qet in quick contact with people that I would have been unable to reach otherwise.
    However, it has really not at all expanded my circle of truly close friends.