Whether by Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter or other technological means, most everybody is “social networking” their brains out these days.
We’re signing on enthusiastically not because we’re starved for more technology.
Rather, in a society that has grown more mobile and global, detached and fragmented, we crave community, and social networking hits the spot.
These are virtual communities, mind you, and don’t expect your Twitter buddies to give you a hug when you need one.
But this is community nonetheless, even if you never see your favorites’ faces or learn their real names.
“In and through community lies the salvation of the world,” author M. Scott Peck wrote in 1986 in “The Different Drum.”
If that’s true, then the world is well on its way to being saved.
At the Tucson Citizen, online commentators have formed such a vivid community that even casual readers know what to expect from Towken1 and leftfield, among others.
At news of the Citizen’s eventual closure, even some of our harshest critics lamented the loss of their virtual community on our Web site. They’ve found a haven here, and they’re loath to let it go.
We understand. Our newsroom is a community, too, and most of us will miss it when it disintegrates – just as most of us miss other neighborhoods and workplaces we have left behind.
But now comes technology, ever ready to fill that void – whether tapping into professional contacts through LinkedIn, chatting about pirates and Cuba on Facebook or merely swapping headlines and inane “going to Wal-Mart” bulletins via Twitter.
Social networking is a great way to conduct public relations and advertising, if done unobtrusively with deftness and decency.
It’s a terrific way to network with professional contacts as well.
And it’s an even better way to catch up with long-lost friends and quickly get a handle on where they are now.
A Facebook connection, for example, led me to get reacquainted with one of my favorite young reporters from yesteryear. She’s now a major network anchorwoman in Chicago.
I’d never have learned about that happy outcome if not for social networking.
I’ve reconnected with many, many more via LinkedIn, thanks to cousin Jennifer Miller who insisted I join that network.
Today, LinkedIn says, my 139 connections link me to more than 644,200 professionals.
Don’t be impressed. High- profile real estate networker Bill Austin of Phoenix has more than 8,700 connections. The number of professionals he’s linked to must be staggering.
Numbers don’t matter as much as consistency, though.
I recently quipped in a column that Twitter must be an incurable genetic disorder. Now I’ve begun to tentatively Tweet, too, so I’m just another twit.
My friend Becky and I used to brag about being anti-tech, able to operate nothing more complex than a toaster. We made Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber look like a high-tech dude.
Not anymore, not for me anyway. I always will prefer the feel of newsprint to the mouse and computer approach, the painting in a gallery to the artwork on a screen.
But nowadays, we can have it all – and we’d better, if we expect to keep up.
Fun chatting with you, but I’m off to a workshop on social networking. See you in cyberspace!