um…er…totally shameless social networker right here. I check my Facebook page at least as many times a day as my email. Many of my friends are on these networks, so it’s busy all day long.
Let me tell you why I like these sites so much:
- It affords me the opportunity to keep in touch with old friends on a regular that I rarely or never get to see or talk to on the phone. I get the blow by blow as often as they put it up. It doesn’t replace the seeing and the speaking, but it does mean that when we do see and speak, we can pick up from the present instead of spending hours on, “so whatcha been up to these last ten years.” Plus, no $400 phone bills (cuz that’s how much it would be if I spoke to them as often as I message, seriously).
- It like to play games. I have so many game applications on my Facebook page that it’s bordering on pathological. Everything from “smart” games like Scrabble and Crosswords to “mindless” games like beating my friends vampire with my zombie. My friend Julie and I used to play Scrabble at least 3 times a week when she lived here. Now that she’s moved to California, we put each other on speaker phone and play online. It’s the next best thing.
- It’s fun. I don’t care one wit that it might be classified as juvenile fun; fun is fun. My cats have their own MySpace and Facebook profiles, each. Why, you ask? Because I’m easily amused and I think it’s funny when my cat “talks” to my friends cat online. If you are rolling your eyes right now but read Rita Mae Brown, your only a stones throw, so watch yourself ;)
- I don’t get to do as much activism as I used to between work and errands and being a generally responsible adult. On these sites I can say it loud and proud, and recruit my friends. I have a causes application that allows me to recruit people to the ASPCA or Same Sex Marriage. I have a lot of friends displaying their Obama bumper stickers online. Does it make a difference? Maybe/maybe not. Would I care if it didn’t? Definitely not.
As for relevance to libraries. I also have applications for World Cat searching and the National Archives on my profile. I am “friends” with Alumni Relations from undergrad. I am a fan of the Brooklyn Public Library and Library Juice Press. I’m in the groups “S.R. Ranganathan is my Hero” and “ALA Members.”
The point here is that there are a lot of different ways to have a web presence that brings people to the door, even if it’s only your virtual door. What you have to decide is whether you are doing it because you feel it’s the only way to reach x group, or if it’s just another fun way to reach folks in general. It is wrong thinking that users can’t tell if you’re trying to manipulate them online. If you’re not having fun, if you think it’s a stupid waste of your time, they can tell and they will take it personally that you think their pastime is worthless. I’ve watched a lot of library 2.0 endevours crash and burn for this reason alone. Don’t pacify people, start a service because you want to.
And then if you want to do it, then ask yourself what purpose it serves. If none, if it would be fun but is really just sucking your staff time and you can’t do it well, then just don’t. We’ve all had to make that hard decision about our physical spaces, why should the standard be different for our virtual spaces.