Digital Social Networking · 5 December 2008

“Yes Michelle, you can call me and your other adult friends by their first names now.” “No Vong and Robin, digital social networking is not just for younger people.” “Sorry Jonathan, I can not be your friend until you have graduated and are an adult.” These are messages I could say to folks I know on Facebook and MySpace, but I rarely do.

I originally joined both MySpace and Facebook to connect with a couple friends and to see if I could get people to click through to my website, I never realized that I might be able to connect with former students and old friends. I never realized that I would spend time searching for old friends and even chatting with people. I never realized that time could get sucked up so fast by using the internet to connect with people. I just thought I could connect to some people I knew and maybe promote myself a little. Contrary to that naïve thought, I have found digital social networking, especially on, is somewhat compelling.

In the beginning, I thought that MySpace and Facebook were merely nuisances to be blocked at school. I had heard seen the websites and figured that students just wasted their time chatting with friends that they could just as easily call or talk to in person. I believed the media suggestion that kids and those who preyed on kids were the only ones who used chat rooms and digital networking sites. I figured that there was no reason for me to belong to MySpace or Facebook. Then one of my friends was always referring to what somebody said on his MySpace page and I had to check it out.

I knew that I would not use MySpace or Facebook to connect with any of my students or any minors to whom I was not related. But I could reconnect with former students and old friends. In just a few weeks, I have found quite a few friends on Facebook and some have found me. A couple of those former students I found were surprised that I, being a person quite a bit over 30, would even be in the young person’s digital domain. I could have told them that even my mom has a Facebook account. Although I must admit that she is a bit of a techno geek. I have found friends that I have not seen in years on the internet chatting and writing on each others’ pages. It is quite an interesting phenomenon. A phenomenon that I have found somewhat compelling.

I am not exactly sure why I find Facebook so compelling. I do know that part of me likes being that fly on the wall “eavesdropping” on people’s “conversations.” Digital social networking is like a big cocktail party where friends check up on what their friends are saying to each other without having to say a word. I find myself in the mode that I take in a real party –watching and listening and occasionally chiming in.

A friend of mine said that she finds Facebook compelling too. She even said that she finds herself looking at photos of friends of friends. People she does not even know. I suppose that cruising the internet, especially digital social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, is like being a voyeur. You can see what others are doing without really being part of what is happening. You can glimpse other people’s lives in an anonymous way. And nobody screams that you are looking, because that is what they want you to do. It is odd but compelling.

As much as I would rather connect or reconnect with friends by seeing them in person, life is often too busy and the physical separation often too great to do so very often. MySpace and Facebook and other digital social networking sites seem to overcome those limitations. Which is the real reason that I find it all so compelling. I can “see” people I care about and get a glimpse of what they are doing. I can tell my young adult friends that they can now call me by my first name and that I am not too old to have a Facebook or MySpace page. And I like the fact that even when I can not say, “See you later,” with much confidence, I can say, “See you on the internet.”

© 2008 Michael T. Miyoshi

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