Social Networking your life away?

How many social networks do you belong to?  Can you count them on one hand?  I can’t…

Whether you’re Facebooked, Twittering, MySpaced out, Mixied up or Linked In, have you ever considered how much time you spend on these websites, and what they might actually be doing to your real social life?  I have, and I have become quite comfortable with my “online life” these days.  I think I’ve found a good balance between virtual and actual and, living in a different country and timezone to many of my friends, I have found that I just couldn’t live without social networks.  But to some, finding a happy balance between online world and real world can be a difficult task.

I check Facebook daily, even if it’s just to read the status updates of my friends (of which there are currently 152 – most of which I have met in real life, but not all), and I find that if I can’t get to a computer for some reason, I do begin to get a little anxious about what might be ‘going on’ on Facebook, without my being there to monitor it.  Unfortunately, my Japanese phone isn’t compatible with Facebook, so I can’t update my status from my cell phone like many of my friends do.  I recently read an article about a girl who tried to go ‘cold turkey’ and quit Facebook.  After just ten days she went back and reactivated her account.

My online life began with MySpace, back in 2006.  I was working in an office, and one of my friends there was obsessed with this website and kept showing it to me.  I had no interest and was a little wary of creating an online presence, but she convinced me it was a great way to make new friends and listen to cool music and, whaddya know, it was!  I was very cautious at first, and for a long time I insisted on using a picture of Nauscicaa as my profile picture, which attracted lots of anime geeks to my profile, but somehow felt safer than using a real picture of myself.

Eventually, my friends convinced me to use a real photo, and we even went out to have a ‘photo-shoot’ in our lunch break (which was actually a lot of fun!).  I used MySpace for a long time, and enjoyed starting a blog there, meeting new friends (many of which I have since met in real life and remain good friends), and discovering and listening to lots of great new music.

But MySpace seemed to die out a bit, and before I knew it all my friends were moving on to Facebook – the next big thing.  I stoically refused to join Facebook for the longest time, until one day I realised that none of my friends were ‘hanging out’ on MySpace anymore, and I would have to join Facebook if I wanted to keep up with them all.  At first I hated it, but now I’m not sure I can go without my daily fix.

These days I use Facebook and other social networking sites for two main purposes.  (1) To keep in touch with my friends and family, who are scattered over the globe, some of whom are too busy/lazy to write long emails, but will happily update their statuses or send me links to things I might find interesting. (2) To network my interests and promote my blogs.  I started writing blogs just for fun, but these days I want to be a bit more serious about writing things for people to read, and I’ve found that linking my blogs to sites such as Facebook can really help to increase my blog-traffic.

But I think we have to be careful.  During my ‘MySpace years’ I did go through a phase of being a bit too into it all, and I had to step back and think about my real life.  I was social networking my life away, at the expense of my real life. Social networking is all well and good as a tool to enhance your daily life, but don’t forget to go out and get a breath of unconnected, real-life fresh air occasionally… 😉