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 😀