In today’s New York Times, (you may need to register to see this), Theodora Stites writes about the vast array of online social networks she belongs to.
I log on to my Friendster, Facebook, MySpace and Nerve accounts to make sure the mail bars are rising with new friend requests, messages and testimonials.
I am obsessed with testimonials and solicit them incessantly. They are the ultimate social currency, public declarations of the intimacy status of a relationship. “I miss running around like crazy w/you in the AM and sneaking away to grab caffeine and gossip,” Kathleen commented on my MySpace for all to see. Often someone will write, “I just posted to say I love you.”
I click through the profiles of my friends to the profiles of their friends (and their friends of friends, and so on), always aware of the little bar at the top of each profile indicating my multiple connections. A girl I know from college is friends with my friend from college’s best friend from Minnesota. They met at camp in seventh grade. The boyfriend of my friend from work is friends with one of my friends from high school. I note the connections and remind myself to IM them later. On Facebook, I skip from profile to profile by clicking on the faces of posted pictures. I find a picture of my sister and her boyfriend, click on his face and jump right to his page.
And that’s just a snippet. It seems to consume most of her spare time. Is this typical of today’s teens and twentysomethings? Brands will have a hard time penetrating a new generation that doesn’t make time for anything outside their own personal network. There are brands experimenting with this (Fox’s purchase of MySpace, for example) but the minute a brand makes its pitch too overt in a social networking space, that brand could lose all credibility.
Plus, I keep wondering, is all this online social networking making us an antisocial society in the real world? I belong to a couple of social networking sites, but I couldn’t possibly deal with Stites’ routine without going batshit crazy.