Facebook, Twitter, and me…

by francine Hardaway on August 27, 2007

From time to time people ask me why I spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter, and indeed, why I blog. “Does it make you any money?”, they ask. “Isn’t it a waste of time?” they ask. “Isn’t it just for kids?”

Lately the MSM have been asking similar questions, in more depth. The Washington Post had a story about unmanageable networks of Facebook friends with whom you really don’t have much in common.

So I felt compelled to say what social networks and social media have done for me.

I was first attracted to social networking ten years ago, when my husband Gerry died of cancer. Alone in a house that had been his, haunted by memories, I couldn’t sleep. So I went on the newly emerging Internet and searched for a support group. I found Widownet.

For a year, I took solace in chatting with other people who had also lost spouses. They were there in the middle of the night, and they always answered me back with good advice.

After a year, I moved on. I never met any of them in person, nor did I need to. But when I was doing research for this post, I searched for it and it is still there. Since 1995.

From then on, I began reaching out. I joined a mailing list of geeks from the Bay Area and followed the dot-com bust through their eyes. They welcomed me without knowing a thing about me but what I posted to the list.

I wrote a weekly email to friends, which is still in existence and has 2000 readers. I get comments on that email list from all over the world, and I’ve met wonderful people through it. Some I have met in person, and some I have not. But if I need something, I can usually “put it out there” and someone will respond to my need, especially when I needed jobs or cars for foster kids, or advice. I joined LinkedIn, and put up my profile.

When blogging came along, I started the blog. The blog opened the circle wider, and I met more new and wonderful people online. Along the way, I tried and dismissed several other online groups and solutions, like Myspace and Friendster, that didn’t seem to do much for me.

Then I bought a home in Half Moon Bay, California, a town in which I knew no one except my daughter.

I sat in the local bars for a while, and felt stupid. After all, I wasn’t looking for a date or a mate, and everyone in a bar is drunk.

But this year, when I came up to California for the summer, Twitter was already on my radar, and so was Facebook.

Through them, I have met hundreds of terrific new people, with all of whom I have something in common — my love of new technology and my willingness to take risk. I have no doubt that if I needed to find a doctor, an apartment, or any other resource in California, I could ask my network and get an answer from a dozen smart people. I am so sorry to be leaving this week, because I feel I am part of a much larger community. From it, I’ve learned which events are a waste of time and which will teach me something. And I’ve learned that I can now move anywhere and plug into a social network to feel at home.

Does all this take time? Sure, it takes some. But so does maintaining a f2f social network. And I can be away from Phoenix for three months and still keep in touch with all my friends back home, too. It’s an investment. You make it for personal reasons, or for business reasons. And if you are clear about the reasons, social media works for you.

It even works for business if you choose the tools wisely and be clear about your goals.

Unmanageable group of friends? Not on your life. In many ways, these are the “best” friends I’ve ever had.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

William Smith August 27, 2007 at 8:16 pm

I loved this article. I feel the same way about friends over the net. Some of the nicest, most caring people I have ever met came from the net / web and are people I haven’t met face to face. Some of them though, I have. One of my best friends I met through online gaming – he was at my wedding!

It is fun to meet people online. Facebook hasn’t done much for me but Pownce has. Met some fun people through that site.


francine hardaway August 27, 2007 at 8:20 pm

I think you have to kiss a few social media frogs to find the prince(s). To me, Pownce doesn’t do as much. It’s very individual. Just like a real network.

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