Cipher Space: FaceBook, LinkedIn, MySpace
I spent an inordinate amount of time yesterday on Facebook. I became obsessed looking for old colleagues, international buddies and fellow college classmates. Seriously, I was on there for more than three hours... on a Sunday. When I should have been mopping, writing holiday cards or paying bills I was instead trying to find folks that I hung out with in South Africa and folks that graduated from Williams College. Fo' real peeps I was having an online meltdown. Everyone keeps telling me Facebook is The Ish, and that Myspace is dead and Linked-In is so 2005, but for all of their hootin and hollerin, I could only find one person from my graduating class on FB.This was even more distressful because we have a major reunion coming up in June and I really want Black folks to show up and get our Berkshire swerve on. But how can we get together in the boonies, when I can't even find folk on supposedly one of the hottest and most popular online networks there is. Now I found plenty of my white compadres that I worked with and schooled with, but I was really surprised by the high frequency of times I got "Name Not Found" when I searched for one of the many faces of color I used to know.
And for the record, I'm still not ready, set, go on believing in the power of online networking-- virtual or otherwise, I'm still doubtful. But even in the midst of my doubt, it seems like every month or so I get convinced, errr suckered, to join a new network, post my pic and rule the world (wide web) or at least have enough friends to do so together.
First there was MySpace: my man Greg was on me like toffee to join and I did and initially was thrilled and of course obsessed in my mission to "get friends." MySpace was hot! I discovered so many new artists and cool blogs and got updates on when my favorite artists would be performing. And of course I made friends-- 711 and counting. But what I discovered is the more “friends” you have, the more likely you are to get spammed with stupid messages about free gift certificates from Macy's or even worse, the easier it is for you to get hacked and lose your entire identity, um I mean profile. At the very least, having so many "friends" makes it harder for you to find the comments and bulletins from the folks you really care about and know... your real friends. Kinda like real life, huh, with all our technology and lack of intimacy? So Myspace isn't dead for me cause I still use it to promote this here blog and to connect with artists like Imani and Alice, but it's just not the space for me.
Next there was LinkedIn and my girl Melinda hood-linked me into joining this cipher. After investing so much into Myspace though I was a bit more cautious this time out and asked her several questions on what this community was all about and of course how it could best serve me knowing that I was already down with Tom and his crew. She convinced me that LinkedIn was the more mature version of MySpace and that it was great for professional wheelings and dealings. Well alrighty then, I thought! This sounds like a community I need to be a part of and in the beginning I was psyched, finding people I used to work with and even a few fellow alumni. And although I was linking-up left and right, I was still wondering about those elusive deals and new found business ventures I was supposed to be getting. I quickly realized that LinkedIn was going to require me to do a lot more footwork. The same kinda footwork that I do offline would have to be done here. That's just smurfy! And yeah I know, through my "CONNECTIONS" I'm like hooked-up to 4,000 people, but in order to get to those folk I have to get introduced by a friend or try to email them cold. And please the 3rd degree? Yeah I have 250,000 connections, but I can't even access them unless I upgrade my account and handover my Visa digits. Instead of martinis at the Four Seasons, a night out at Scores or some form of payola, it's Paypal. Either way it takes money to have real connections and make real deals. Huh, just like the real world again.
And last but not least, the motherland of matrix mash-ups-- FaceBook. I wasn't even going to mess with FB because by now I was feeling like I was a member of more social networks than a Jack & Jill swingin, Delta stepping, praying Deaconess. But when I went to South Africa (which I'm going to blog extensively about over the holidays) EVERYONE was down with FB and scoffed at me when I mentioned hooking up through MySpace. You would have thought I was asking my JoBurg homies to use Morse Code. So now that I'm down with FB I must say it is on and popping with all of their super walls and graffiti. I have 'poked' a ton of folks from my past and am hooked up with all of my international buddies. I'm finding it's a really useful way to stay in touch with friends and associates who do not live in NYC and I've been a bit more personal on FB than the other platforms.
So for now I'm totally content with my online hood. But recognize yo, at the end of the day nothing makes me happier than receiving a good ole fashion, handwritten letter in my mailbox. I love sending out and receiving Christmas cards and just bought a box of cute notecards from Papyrus. Online networking and texting is cool, but a note that says 'I love you' or an 'I'm just thinking of you' postcard from a far off locale or coffee with one of my mentors or a fried fish dinner with my mom... priceless!