To Tweet or To Twit

Last week, I heard that Twitter is the fastest growing online social network. Well, whoop deee doo!! I’d just gotten used to Facebook after dumping MySpace, while at the same time trying to keep up with Shelfari, Digg, and LinkedIn—and now I’m told I should be Twitting or Tweeting or whatever the new term is for staying connected. I suppose my age is showing, but I’m having a hard time keeping up with all of these new ways of staying in the loop. Maybe the “loop” isn’t the place for me or maybe what I need is a short lesson from a loop expert. Yeah, a “loop guru”—that’s what I need.

So what is social networking anyway? Social networking is a term that was coined in the sixties to characterize the practice of expanding your business and social contacts by making connections through people you know. While the term is relatively new, the practice isn’t. Social networking has existed since humans have lived in civilizations. What is new is the number of contacts that are now possible due to the Internet.

Web-based groups established for social networking purposes can have tens of millions of members—in some cases, more members than many countries have citizens and all of these members are connected through a network of interconnections.

According to WhatIs.com, the current on-line social network structure is based on the six degrees of separation concept (the idea that any two people on the planet could make contact through a chain of no more than five intermediaries).

In an article I wrote here last year, I listed the ways in which online social networks have benefited us. I noted that my husband Dick and I met through an online social network. We found the house we live in through a real-estate social network and there have been many other rewards.

It’s possible we might not have as broad a reach with the LA Progressive if it weren’t for the power of these networks. In case you’re unaware of this, at the bottom of each LA Progressive article you’ll find a set of icons that link to several different social networks. If you click “share this” or click on any one of the icons, thousands of others are given an opportunity to read our content. Without this, the LA Progressive would be lost in the sea that is the internet. Only those who know we exist or those who stumble upon us would find us. So, yes, if you appreciate the work we do, we strongly encourage you to click “share this”. It helps us to stay alive.

If you have questions about this or would like to have a deeper understanding of how the LA Progressive uses social networking, Dick and I will be conducting a two-part workshop on March 21, at Occidental College. But I digress.

The point I want to make here is that social networking can be of benefit to you regardless of your age. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of this media can lead certain age groups to throw up their hands in frustration, daunted by the prospect of climbing yet another learning curve. For those who feel that way, you should know that there are ways to discern which social network(s) are best for you.

Among the hundreds of these sites—Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YahooBuzz, Shelfari, del.icio.us, Reddit, Digg, SphereIt, Fark, Stumbleupon, Newsvine, Propeller, Technorati, and LinkedIn, to name a few—is a select few that can serve your particular needs. There are even sites that are guides to social media. Mashable is one such site. In theory, any individual can make contact through anyone they have a connection to, but that’s only possible if you use the medium.

My experience using this media has been very positive. I’ve reconnected with long-lost friends, established relationships with people I would not have met under other circumstances, developed a hot e-zine, and formed deeper connections with people who were already in my life but yet I felt angst when I heard about Twitter’s rise in popularity. So, back to the idea I posed in the first paragraph—meeting with a Loop Guru.

Dick came up with the term “Loop Guru” partly in jest, but it turns out that there really are such people even though they may not refer to themselves this way. We are going to have an opportunity to meet with a couple on March 21, at the Local Media for Social Change Summit being held at Occidental College. We attended this event last year, learned a lot and made some great connections.

Here’s the agenda:

SUMMIT OVERVIEW and AGENDA

Occidental College, Mosher 1 Auditorium

11 am Opening Panel (Mosher 1 auditorium)
How do local media help or hurt our communities? How can we participate to affect social change?

  • Moderated by Tanya Acker, Political Analyst (CNN, MSNBC, FOX)
  • Linda Milazzo, Widely published journalist and teacher
  • Brad Friedman, BradBlog.com
  • Anthony Samad, Syndicated columnist-BlackCommentator, LA Progressive
  • Mario Solis-Marich, The Mario Solis-Marich Show,KTLK AM1150

12:30-1:30 pm Networking Lunch

1:30-2:45 pm Breakout Sessions Group A

  • Citizen Journalism: U B the News (part one)
  • Accountability: Organizing Against Unfair Press Coverage
  • Start Your Own Story: Community Funded Reporting
  • Using Social Media To Get Your Message Out
  • Updates at the FCC and Congress
  • Saving LA Public Access

3-4:15 pm Breakout Sessions Group B

  • Citizen Journalism: U B the News (part two)
  • Indigenous Media: Marginalization in the Media
  • Start Your Own Story: Youth Radio
  • Academics as Advocates
  • DTV Transition Updates
  • Internet Freedom

4:30 pm Keynote Address (Mosher 1 auditorium)
Dominique DiPrima, KJLH 102.3FM
Video supplied by Robert Greenwald, Brave New Films

5:30 pm Reception (Mosher courtyard)

To Register Click Here

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Comments

  1. Chris Rowe says

    I get your emails and see you on FACEBOOK. I also have used DIGG and reddit. There are so many powerful tools.

    I do not need to have Twitter since I do not use a Blackberry or similar texting device. My pc can IM anyone that I am linked to immediately – that is one way I communicate to my son in college – through AIM.

    I think that some people like Twitter for real time information. I see it as “the sky is falling”. If there are so many messages, then the recipient often cuts off the flow of information. I have had that happen in emails for a campaign – and on FACEBOOK.

    Some people use myspace and FACEBOOK for fun – look at the posts of the younger generations. Others use it to network and “make friends”. One soon learns about controlling the flow of conversation from “friends”.

    I agree with you Sharon – Twitter is not necessary for me.

  2. says

    During the GOP Convention, protestors evaded police interventions by twittering updates, so it can have practical and even ideological uses.

    According to Twitter’s About Us, “Isn’t Twitter just too much information? No, in fact, Twitter solves information overload by changing expectations traditionally associated with online communication.”

    Unfortunately, all this is beyond the 150-character (or whatever) limit; as one of the other comments here notes, there is not enough organization given (or possible) to the thoughts shared.

    Q. Why not just e-mail? A. You’d get a limited number of recipients. In effect, Twitter is a big opt-in e-mail list.

    Shared consciousness? Hmm. In evolutionary terms, it makes sense. Like a colony of ants, operating more on instinct than intelligence, we are becoming a “super-organism,” linked by intelligence … like a super-computer, its component parts each handling part of a massive computation, thus faster than one machine trying to handle it all at once.

    Can digital nirvana be far away? ;)

  3. says

    I think social networking has benefits, but Twitter freaks me out! Why does anyone want to read random people’s unorganized thoughts? No thanks! If I’m going to spend my limited time reading people’s writing, I expect some level of organization and editing.

    I find the need to externalize your thoughts to be really bazaar and unhealthy. This reflects our society’s general trend towards the external and not the internal. People are grasping at the external – wanting their every thought to be public, while ignoring any semblance of an internal life or internal examination. This just compounds the emptiness of people’s lives, since they can’t find meaning by looking within, being alone, being still. Suffering is increased the more we are attached to our own thoughts.

    I continue to be baffled by Twitter’s popularity, and embrace by highly educated people (Rachel Maddow comes to mind…). Why do people feel the need to voluntarily externalize their (usually) meaningless thoughts or text conversations?
    J. Teel

  4. Tom Webster says

    I’ll see you on Saturday and don’t sweat Twitter. Way easier than most social networks and it may already be on its way out. Wait until South by South West is over and we’ll see who is left standing.

    BTW, I’m also working on a project called Printcasting that takes any blog with an RSS feed and can turn it into a printable pdf. Check it out: http://www.Printcasting.com

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