‘Tweet’ your heart out

I hardly know “Laura”, a super cool, artstyfartsy chick on the West Coast. I barely remember her from our high school days, some 17 years ago. I really can’t recall any memories of her from back then, but I can tell you that she ate a veggie sandwich for lunch today. I can also tell you that the colors of the avocado she sliced open for that sandwich served as the inspiration for her afternoon art class.

We both have children that are the same ages and they love watching the same movies over and over again. We enjoy bouncing “mommy advice” questions off of each other. It’s especially fun when other moms jump in and kick start the discussion. Laura is a great cyber friend. Apparently though, we feed our kids very differently, because last night at 6:52 Pacific time she posted that they enjoyed a “sweet treat of banana splits as a bedtime snack complete with sprinkles and chocolate syrup”.

How do I know these things when my own schedule is too hectic to simply drive across town and share a cocktail with the girls? I can keep up with everyone in a moments glance at today’s “News Feed” on Facebook, the Internet site that asks its users, “What are you doing?” As strange as this may sound, we all answer – some more honest than others depending on how transparent they wish to be — with little bite-sized tidbits of our daily life.

A few days ago Laura asked if anyone had any knowledge about a Lexmark X7675 wireless printer. Within seconds she had several very informative responses. She made her decision and I got the low-down on this printer that will work regardless of where in the house you set up your laptop. I might also add that it was Facebook comments that sold me on my iPhone. I had never before seen a commercial or read any literature about it. I just heard everyone boasting about how awesome it was and I headed to our local AT&T store. I already knew everything the sales guy tried to tell me because of people that weren’t even employed by the company.

So before those of you that do not share this latest crazed addiction go assuming that I’m stalking Laura along with 399 other “friends”, I’d like to explain that Facebook, claiming to be the world’s largest social network, has 175 million members. Admittedly, trying to explain the fascination with a site such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter is challenging to say the least. Those that are social internet converts “get it” and each day stay digitally linked in with others that also enjoy this interconnectedness.

It’s sort of like hanging out at the beauty shop and getting all the dirt and latest news. You get to see who married who and find out what kind of life they are living today. At times, there is drama stirred up among “Tweeters” (a name given to Twitter contributors). I have often compared it to a pint-sized, real life soap opera but for the most part it is all kept light and in good fun.

If you ask five different “Tweeters” or “Myspacers” what the allure to these sites are you‘ll most likely get five different answers. The reasons range from spouses being overseas to business networking and even dating. Many people keep up with old friends that have moved away and often find new friends with similar interests. Grandparents can go to their child’s profile page and see pictures of their grandchildren and even get family updates.

The one common answer that I’ve heard is how addicting it is, claiming “once you get on it’s hard to get off.” The contagiousness of it all has been referred to as a “wildfire that transcended geography”.

Cell phones now have built-in special features for these sites, making it possible to link in with your hubby while stuck in traffic. Perhaps the grocery store is on your way home and you need to know if there is enough OJ for breakfast. Wouldn’t a phone call or text be faster? Yes, of course, but these days most folks directly log right in to their home page to leave a digital note.

Recent data shows that social networking sites have become more popular than e-mail. There is concern that the plugged-in world may interfere with real life friendships and quality time with loved ones. However, many users are showing the opposite and there’s even a cute little name for it. A “Tweet-Up” is a gathering of people that met through Twitter and get together in the flesh not just cyber land.

In a rather hectic world where people rarely speak when passing on the street, these sites make it easy to pinpoint folks with the same interests. It’s also about self expression, validation, and feeling heard among this patchwork quilt of friends.

Think smart and be safe. Use caution when approving friend requests. All of these sites offer privacy options that should be used if you plan to share personal information about yourself or especially your children. You must take the time to enable these settings as it does not come preset for your safety.


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