Hi everyone! My name is Rusty Coonfield and here is my BLOG. That's short for "weblog" to you. Kind of like an online journal which may or may not include subjects like: how to use a Macintosh computer, cool and useful websites, new technologies, photos of outdoor pursuits and my family and friends. Please add you comments and have fun! -Rusty

Friday, May 09, 2008

The New Social

A kind of primer to online social networking...

The scenario.
Have you ever been walking down the street or sitting in public place and noticed all the fascinating people around you? You watch them go about their business but know there is so much more hiding behind that silent simple picture of a human being and you resist the urge to walk up to them and ask them to give you a quick synopsis of their life hoping to find those hidden treasures of the human condition or maybe to simply see if their story fits what you see. Alas, usually you don't because their just isn't time enough not to mention most people would think you were a little wacko. But wouldn't it be great if there was a way to know who else was silently casting glances in your direction wondering exactly the same things about you?

The process.
I still see references to the anti-social geek holed up in an apartment somewhere foregoing all real human interaction for the anonymity of a chat room and maybe "ordering" a mate from an online dating service. But as technology has advanced the way we social is evolving. The chat room is no longer the anonymous destination for most people going to the computer desiring human interaction. Folks are gladly posting personal information about themselves to the internet to open themselves up to like-minded individuals and even to those who are so different as to be curious. "Profile" pages such as Myspace and Facebook or someone's personal blog serve as a "residence" that is open 24/7 for others to visit and explore all at the explorers leisure without disturbing the owner. A friend request is sent and now the owner gets to review the information of someone who expressed an interest in them - how flattering! The two humans figure out that they both have many common interests or maybe they just find that their common interest is finding out about each other. In any case human contact is made and even traditional social behavior may ensue.
The advantages are clear. New friends with similar interests can be found so fast that you won't have time to hang out with them all! But the technologies allow you to interact with them via the net as well. A larger group of friends can be interacted with on a regular basis and old friends that have moved are now much closer and able to find you very easily. And possibly one of the most important lynch pins in all of this is that initial interactions can be made "safely" behind the relative anonymity of your computer which I think is the point that most often stops people from meeting at all.

One step further.
Knowing where another person is at provides many reasons to interact and fairly new technologies are making finding people near you in the real world easier. Twitterwhere allows you to find people that are using Twitter near you or even in a place you've always wanted to visit. My local tweets and I often exchange information during bad weather. I travel a lot too and if I am wondering something about where I am traveling I could find out from a real person. Unlike picking someone randomly out of the phone book in an unfamiliar place using new technologies I can see who might have the best answer to my question before bothering a bunch of people not to mention the fact that if they are participating in a technology like twitter I know I have consent to contact them in the first place.
With applications like Twinkle on the iPhone or BrightKite you can even find people immediately around you maybe at the same restaurant, movie theater, sporting event ,etc! Short silent exchanges can be made via text on your mobile device without interrupting the real-world event you are both attending and if a meeting is agreed then maybe you could go out to sushi after the movie and get to know a new friend beyond their profile.
The new social is here to stay and will only evolve into greater things. This prolific new use of the internet and its quick absorption into daily life is even being referred to as "web 2.0" meaning the second evolution of the internet. It is promising that our society is embracing this new "open" way of interaction. It may sound cliche but it makes the world smaller. The new social helps make us all friends and friends help and nurture each other. I think we can make a lot of changes in the world for the better just by having the conversation.

Welcome to the new social.