July 29, 2009

social networks

Seth Godin on social networks:

His key point is that social networking (ie facebook, twitter, etc) is only valuable to the degree that it fosters real relationships; if it's not building conversation, trust and a willingness to serve and do for others it simply becomes a meaningless time waster.

This summer I've also been reading Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky and came upon this quote:
"We don't often talk about love when trying to describe the public world, because love seems too squishy and too private. What has happened, though, and what is still happening in our historical moment, is that love has become a lot less squishy and a lot less private. Love has a half-life too, as well as a radius, and we're used to both of those being small. We can affect the people we love, but the longevity and social distance of love are both constrained. Or were constrained - now we can do things for strangers who do things for us, at a low enough cost to make that kind of behavior attractive, and those effects can last well beyond our original contribution. Our social tools are turning love into a renewable building material. When people care enough, they can come together and accomplish things of a scope and longevity that were previously impossible; they can do big things for love."
One small example of how I've recently seen this at work was in a simple status update my friend Jeff posted on facebook a couple weeks ago. He made a quick reference about meeting a homeless family in the park, and asked if anyone knew of some resources that might help them. People came through, and within 48 hours the family was in a hotel room. It was a quick appeal on Jeff's part a few years ago getting that kind of support might have meant spending a few hours on the phone; now all it took was a simply status update (2-3 minutes of his time). But also, the response was based on this network of people who actually know Jeff and know his judgement and insight can be trusted, leading them to step up and assist this family. There is beauty and power in social networking, but we must always be careful that the medium always be a medium for that larger work of love - helping others and changing lives, instead of becoming an idol of love unto itself.

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