I’ve been thinking a lot about alternative social networking these days, moving beyond Facebook and Myspace and Friendster or whatever. Social networking seems to continue to flourish even as the Myspace boom has died down, leveled out, and even petered down, through semi- and fully-professional personal sites and blogs, Flickr, Twitter, freelancers’ online portfolios, Blip.fm and Last.FM, LinkedIn…I could go on.
Maybe it’s just me recently noticing it, but while social networking has still seemed to be a bit of a “hot topic” with people not fully understanding it, it’s moved beyond the conventions and, for lack of better terminology, “grew up”.
I think the big question here is, what are we going to do with it? As blogging moves away from the diary format and more towards “open-source” citizen journalism, online publication, and freelance online writing and reporting, as social networking platforms move from friend-acquiring and more towards genuine networking and recommendations to create new distributions of information, it’s going to radically change aspects of the web. Or the “Web”, as some might say.
This blog right here is the center of my online “hub,” from here I more or less branch out to other stuff. I read several blogs a day from writers and artists and other media types (journalists, web nerds, music-oriented stuff), primarily through saved bookmarks and RSS feeds. I have several email accounts, both personal and work-related that are active, I’m on a few news feeds, like Slashdot, and get news via email a lot. I also get press releases through the mail, emails from bands and labels, and believe it or not people do still directing email each other these days for social purposes. These days I generally find myself utilizing something Facebook to follow and contact friends, Twitter to talk to friends, follow some people, disseminate information, and occasionally pimp this site, and Myspace primarily to be open to bands to write to me, and occasionally contact friends. I’m on LinkedIn, I cross-post from here to Livejournal, I use Flickr, and I’m even on a few fansite communities for stuff I like. You get the gist of what I’m talking about, right?
While I do have an online presence, it’s not based on having an old-model center stemming from what people think of as conventional, and thus the “majority”, of social networking.
A few years ago it seemed like everyone thought Myspace was the big threat to conventional friendships and networking, a new place for unruly and sexually-deviant teenagers to hang out. I mean to an extent it was, but it was also fast-becoming more or less a learning platform for independent networking, publishing, and formation dissemination. These days it’s evolved into a platform for free (albeit controlled) content hosting for new bands and musicians wanting to garner a listening audience. You’re more likely to see more and more bands using it as a free website to host music and spread information, and less likely to see Myspace “personalities” like Tila Tequila or Jeffree Star these days because while yeah, the network is no longer new and exciting, it’s also because people are less and less likely to make it the center of their online social networks like they used to (if not their ENTIRE network) any more. Well, at least serious “grown-up” types like me.
I know, try to contain your snickers. Hey you, in the back, stop laughing!
Nowadays it’s Facebook as the center of social networking for both young and old, and the sexual drama is inexplicably now on cell phones?
It’s not necessarily a turnaround to the 90’s and the era of really shitty AOL-hosted domains where you threw up a diary and some bad pictures and graphics anymore. Non-centralized networking is growing. It’s becoming the new backbone of independent freelancing, DIY publishing and journalism, so-called “citizen journalism”, information dissemination…you get the picture, right? Businesses are less worried about having a Myspace page and more on online distribution on their own terms, writers and artists are realizing that they can produce content to showcase and publish on the web on their own terms without the stresses of needing to maintain an active online presence, and bands are less concerned with layouts than they are with booking tours and distributing music and selling records. I know it sounds naive, but I really do see it and feel it.
I know this totally sounds like some chump who considers his pitiful attempts at online independent writing and freelancing in need of defense against those who continue to rally around the idea that the internet has more or less killed conventional news, but I swear, it’s not just that. If anything, I see it as the new, posthuman version of journalism and the news (not media, the news!).
The internet is finally starting to realize its potential, and I honestly think it’s a good thing. People are realizing that there is another level to the internet, there is a legitimacy that stems from the evolution towards new types of online networks.
PS, don’t forget to add me on Myspace, I need to break 1,000 “friends”.