A recent survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 45 percent of Americans in all age groups are enthusiastic about socializing via computer and mobile devices. Meanwhile, 48 percent are indifferent to Internet social networks, overwhelmed by gadgets or often avoiding Internet use altogether. Perhaps most surprising was the presence of a group that fell in between - the remaining 7 percent of the survey. These people, who had a median age of 29, are savvy about social networks and always carry mobile devices - and yet they feel conflicted about staying in constant contact. Pew called them "ambivalent networkers."
When my son was living in England, it was always a chore for him to send me photos of his travels. He told me that if I wanted to see them sooner, I should just get a Facebook account. So I registered at Facebook for the sole purpose of seeing my son's photos. As a result I might have the lamest Facebook presence out there. It consists of a minimal amount of personal info and a picture of some tomatoes from my backyard. But then when I made my Facebook profile, I got a few friend requests, which I in time approved, but it leaves me in a quandary – when I accept a friend request, don't some responsibilities come with it? And if I don't accept a friend request, isn't that rude? As of now, I'm what I might call a "franger" – a friend who, due to minimal social contact, might as well be a stranger.
And Twitter is another thing. I made my first Tweet on August 26, 2007 and in those 592 days I've composed 47 updates – not exactly a tweeting frenzy. Originally I began twittering as a way to collaborate with a couple of like-minded teachers from the National Writing Project. It worked well at the time, but now we collaborate via our classroom work on Youth Voices, Skype, Teachers Teaching Teachers podcasts on the Ed Tech Talk webcast community, or via phone calls or Google chats, to name but a few.
So it comes as no surprise to me that people are dropping out of Facebook and Twitter. Online social networks tend to ebb and flow. I join Nings when I'm about to attend conferences or participate in some event like a reunion, but then virtually drop out of them after the conversation around that event wanes.
Our participation in online social networks change, just like our old-fashioned human relationships. Maybe I should update my profile....