Ever since I was a pre-teen (it’s really been that long), I was immersed in social media to some extent. From chat rooms to forums to instant messaging and now to web 2.0 sites and social networks, I’ve been through it all — from alpha, to beta, to final — and then some. I’m at the point where I am bewildered by the amount of people joining and wondering if I should let everyone have access to every part of my life — since right now, most (all?) of it is online. This issue has become a lot more prevalent as I see people take advantage of social networks because they are so easy to sign up to and manipulate for personal gain.
It wasn’t always like this. And for awhile, it was rather nice. When I first visited a chat room on AOL in 1993, I actually spoke with someone who went to the same high school as me. We had the same teachers — the only difference was that this guy was 13 years my senior so our paths never crossed. The AOL Lobby at the time was frequented by author Tom Clancy. People were cordial and welcoming and friendly to each other. I, too, was open and ready to embrace friendships online due to the novelty of networking. Social networking was in its infancy then and it didn’t attract those people who now make parents worry about their children’s safety. In a way, I’m lucky. But I also had a keen eye and I matured very quickly since I was exposed to people from all parts of the world and from all rungs of society.
I grew up, and social networks grew and new ones sprouted alongside me. The appeal brought individuals looking to network and who had a genuine interest in finding others with similar interests. It also brought the undesirables.
In the beginning, I let everyone in. My Friendster account of 2001 has more Filipinos than Americans, and that seems to make a lot of sense given the demographics of the site. I wanted to meet anyone and everyone. I accepted any friendship invitations. It was fun and harmless.
I’m at a different point in my life now. Today, I’m always looking for networking opportunities, but in a way, I agree that Scoble is silly. When you add everyone and their pet fish to your network, it defeats the purpose. Perhaps I’ve hit a point — at least on some networks — where I’ve reached social media maturity and feel that it’s about who you know rather than run amok friending everyone you possibly can.
This is not to say that becoming friends with random people on social networks an immature approach, but I believe that the novelty of meeting random people (and I mean entirely random) is gone with me as I have evolved within the social media realm. I’ll be more than happy to befriend anyone who has a connection to me, whether it is through a friend or a sibling or even just as an admirer of a blog I read. For me, though, it’s not about blind acceptance anymore as it was before. I don’t consider it risky, but I think that anyone who wants to make friends with someone should make a good faith networking effort rather than to aim to have as many friends as possible.
Do you feel that you’ve reached that point? Am I growing up too fast?