Fascinating perceptions of online social networks

people and relationships, society, technology

I was just chatting with a smart British friend of mine about the new social networking site, orkut.com, and it was like we were speaking a different language.

She simply couldn’t fathom why anyone “would need a computer program to make friends,” and, to my great surprise, she hadn’t even heard of Friendster. This, mind you, is a highly-educated woman who works in technology for goodness sake. And here I thought that the only people who hadn’t heard of Friendster had been living under a rock for the last few years.

This friend, however, is not the only person who questions the worth of online social networks. Though opinions are certainly shifting, many folks continue to label services like Match.com as crutches for people who are too ugly or socially inept to get a date “in the real world.” Similarly, I’ve heard and read various folks joke about how sites like Tribe.net and Ryze.com and such are populated by people who want to leech (socially and professionally), but have little or nothing to give in return.

Clearly, from my standpoint at least, these views are misguided. In particular, it can be both amusing and stunning to note some of the active users on the various networking sites.

From my cursory searches on orkut.com alone, in fact, I’ve found CEOs of major companies, authors of best-selling books, and many more folks who clearly aren’t of the sort one would see as stereotypically needing the social or business connections.

Or, for that matter, romantic connections.

There’s a particular woman on orkut.com, for instance (whom I’ll call Janelle) that is a striking example of the mismatch between traditional perceptions and reality. Janelle is one of the most powerful and publicly known executives of a major publishing company. She’s highly personable, extremely bright, quite articulate and rather attractive to boot.

She’s also, as she notes on her orkut profile, single, and interested in dating. And no, I won’t give you a link to her profile! 😀

My point is that these online networks clearly serve to augment, rather than replace in-person socializing, business schmoozing, and flirting. Indeed, from my experience, sites like Tribe.net and Orkut tend to feature folks who are already largely social beings; these online services are just another outlet for their exploration and connection.

But I’ve rambled on long enough. Now I have to figure out how I can get on Janelle’s radar without sending her a dorky note 😀

7 comments… add one
  • kathie Jan 26, 2004

    oh for chrissake, not all people who use friendster or myspace or tribe etc. are on it to ‘make friends.’  it’s fun looking through people’s profiles! but i guess not all people see that…

  • katiebird Jan 28, 2004

    90% of the time the so called intelligent people, are the most ignorant of all, and have experienced little or no life. I was in friendster, it seemed to be more of a burden then enjoyable. It was always down, emails didn?t work because of a slow server or something I know little about that end. All I know is, I have little room for frustration! Which made it to be less and less fun.  I left it and went to ?myspace? which is so far so good, I have even made a donation to myspace, because it is fun and I have met some great people. I was a member of ?Tribe? and ?Ringo? which was way to blah and hard to express yourself. Myspace is no different in the sense of idiots populating it with their stupidity, and I just try to keep my distance from them, Hell I might be one and not even know it.  So good luck on your site, I wish you the best.. I was just randomly going through journals and found yours. I doubt I will be back. If you?re ever in myspace look me up you can find me by searching for ?Katiebird?

    byeeeeeee

  • plibin Jan 28, 2004

    I’ve just signed on to orkut at the invitation of a friend and am still skeptical.  I’m generally an early adopter of new communication methods, but at this point there are already too many streams to follow. 

    I’ve got email, IM and phone for talking to direct friends or business contacts.  I’ve got media sites, radio, magazines, subscription newsletters and TV for read-only communication from strangers.  I’ve got USENET, web discussion groups and various on-line communities for reviews and bi-directional common-interest discussions.  Then there’s stuff like orkut and friendster. 

    Somewhere in the middle of all that are blogs.  I’m experimenting with a blog now to see if they’re an effective way to keep a wide-ranging conversation going on topics that i think are important.  No conclusions yet, but i’m new.

    I’m more interested in technologies that help me tie streams together (like RSS and Google), than new, proprietary pools of information.  If i want to talk about, let’s say, a new cell phone, i’d like to have one place to have that discussion.  I don’t want to read and post to a half dozen boards and communities.

    As for friends, i don’t really have enough time to keep up with people i’ve known in real life for the past twenty years.  Maybe orkut-like sites can help there, but i don’t think most of my current social circle would be willing to sign up.

    Plus, i’m a bit creeped out by the dating focus of many of these communities.  I understand that a lot of people are looking for that, but it still feels out of place.  I wouldn’t go to a singles’ bar to have a good meal and i wouldn’t go to an industry conference if i had to wear my marital status and dating preference on my badge.  If i go to hear a NASA scientist speak, i don’t expect to be able to rate her on “sexiness” after the talk.

    Maybe there’s two ways of looking at communication styles: people-centric and information-centric.  I guess i value ready access to useful information more than i value a personal relationship with an on-line community.  I guess a lot of people are the opposite.  I wonder what the percentages are.

    Still willing to be thoughtful and put in some effort into blogs and orkut.  Jury is out.

  • Elaine of Kalilily Jan 29, 2004

    Now, see?  I found this site through orkut.com, which I just joined through a blogger friend’s invitation—and I discovered that all kinds of other blogger friends of mine also belong.  So I joined the orkut blogger community, checked out the current discussion, and noticed Adam’s excellent advice about how to increase traffic on one’s site.  So, of course, I checked out Adam’s site, and here I am leaving a comment.  Blogging and services like orkut are what you make of them.  For “old folks” like me, they’re a way to get a glimpse of other voices, other rooms without having to get on an airplane and spend a lot of money.

  • Kerri Jan 29, 2004

    I was wondering if you had an invite code for orkut you’d like to get rid of. 😀

  • Auliya Jan 31, 2004

    Most of the people I’ve met who won’t allow themselves to enjoy ‘six degrees’ type sites like Friendster and Orkut site that they are avoiding spam by not submitting email addresses (etc) to anywhere, ever, if possible. They won’t even reply to posts (like I am doing now) because their email address might be stolen and signed up to a spam list. I grudgingly respect their fears, as I’ve actually spent real money on spam assassin software to control at least one of my more victimized email addresses… but at the same time, I recognize the web as an amazing and energizing resource. I can’t USE it properly if I’m timid about spam (and identity theft, and and and!). So I try to be responsible, not afraid. And I end up having alot of fun and interacting with really outstanding people. So, moral of the story? I SHAKE MY TINY FIST AT THEM. *shake shake*

    Ahem.

    -Auliya

  • azure Feb 2, 2004

    well, to be perfectly honest, i found your blog via orkut as well…and i would agree that places like orkut work best to augment the socializing and other such activities that we all participate in from time to time…personally, i’ve been having a lot of fun wandering around orkut, finding new people and new blogs to read 🙂 but that’s just me *shrug*

    by the by, i think one of the best aspects of orkut is the fact that YOU CHOOSE what information you put out there AND who sees it! not everyone is going to see every aspect of your profile, which to me, is “a good thing”…but again, there are always the paranoid ones who worry about what (personal) info might be “out there”…to them, i say one thing…“get off the internet”…[/kicks soapbox out from under her feet as she exits] heh

What do you think?