the realm of unmatched socks, pocketed business cards and unused social networking pages

10 Baha 165 (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  The Pogues, “The Sickbed of Cuchulainn”

I was a Friendster once.  Technically, I still am.  One of my housemates urged me to sign up sometime in 2004.  He was trying to explain the concept to me, and I must admit that at the time I had a bit of difficulty grasping it.  It was something about having friends and being able to see friends of friends.  It sounded strangely similar to the practice of collecting baseball cards.  

But I signed up, and added four people as friends.  Well, actually three.  One of my friends decided to create a profile for one of the prominent buildings in my neighborhood.  I might have had someone’s cat as a friend at one point as well.  Since I’m deathly allergic to cats, interacting with one via a social networking group has a lot of appeal, since cat dander is not an issue in cyberspace.

Later, I started to hear a lot about MySpace.  A few months after I started this blog, I was nominated for a “Blogger of the Week” by MKEonline.com.  I was one of five contestants and people had to vote on their favorite, and a MySpace blog won that week.  This kind of ticked me off because, duh, it’s a social networking site, and of course they’re in a good position to win because all they have to do is get their friends to vote.  So much for artistic merit.

I think on two different previous occasions I did set up a MySpace site, but I have absolutely no idea where they are or how to access them.  Like my Friendster account, I set up the page and then ignored it.  

Last November, I heard about NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) in which bloggers would take up the challenge of posting to their blog once a day, every day in November.  I decided to take up the challenge so I signed up at the site, and discovered, to my surprise, that I was signing up for an account at a social networking site.  It was not one of the big ones, but a network set up on Ning.  I was busy trying to post a blog posting every day—why would I want to mess around on a social network site as well?  But I did start a group for Wisconsin bloggers and three signed up, and I do link to two of them and occasionally correspond.  

Then I heard about “Baha’i Communities,” another social networking site.  I signed up, and discovered that this, too was a Ning site.  They verified that I truly was a registered Baha’i and let me join.  This was kind of nice, too.  I did not know anyone on the site, though.  I have a couple of “friends” that I’ve added on there.  I could add more—people who are on the discussion groups, though there isn’t a whole lot of discussion on the groups I belong to.

It was around this time that I began to hear more and more about Facebook.  Many of my housemates had Facebook pages and I was considering setting up a page there, too.  But one Baha’i friend told me she had a MySpace page and insisted it was better.  I was reluctant to set up a MySpace page again—not only because of my previous experience but also because there was a period of time where my computer would crash every time I went onto MySpace, and although I wasn’t having that problem now, I still felt MySpace was kind of skanky.

Then another friend invited me to join MySpace.  She said she was doing so because of the online music that one could check out there.  So I figured that if I had two friends on there already, I might as well sign up.  Then I decided, well, if I’m going to do that, then I should set up a Facebook account.  So I registered with Facebook as well.  

I’m surprised at how much I like Facebook.  It made it easy for me to search for Facebook pages of people from my high school and at my current workplace.  I found a bunch of people from work who I knew, including someone I’ve never met in person but with whom exchange emails with frequently for business-related purposes.  I made a bunch of friend requests from my workplace.  Then I found the page of one housemate (one of my friends from Friendster), went through his friends list since I knew there would be a lot of people I knew there, too, and through this and other means came up with eighteen friends in the space of week without really trying hard.  One of them posted a very poignant comment that said, “Ah, yes…no friendship is really real unless it’s cemented over the Internet.”  

Meanwhile, through MySpace, I began to get friend requests from people I’d never met.  Like five or six in a day.  All of them were female, and their names were, well, exotic.  Their manner of dress was, too.  I don’t personally know anyone who poses online in a thong—such people usually aren’t in my real life social network.  I decide it would be prudent to deny their friend request lest I catch some kind of, um, virus from them.  I think they found me through Tom, though I’m not sure.  Tom is a guy who automatically appears as your friend when you sign up for MySpace.  He apparently works for MySpace, serves as the welcoming committee to all new members, and has a blog with insightful suggestions for how to use MySpace and protect yourself.  He has useful tips, so I’m not sure if I want to delete him as a friend, but if it’s the only way to avoid visits from people with names like Fanny, that might be a good call.

Meanwhile, one of my MySpace friends, who is fourteen years younger than I, posted a comment telling me that that I needed to “pimp up” my MySpace page.  I responded by jokingly quoting a lyric from War’s 1975 hit “Low Rider,” and mentioned that I felt like an old man on MySpace as I try to figure out how to use the thing.  I didn’t realize that what I said would appear on my friend’s comment wall, so I thought, great, now I’m going to look like a total dork in front of my friend’s 57 friends.  

But I did explore the music section of MySpace and liked what I saw.  I can do a search of music by genre and location, and it seems like a lot of bands and singer-songwriters have their own pages where I can listen to music.  I can see myself potentially getting lost there for hours.

Meanwhile, Friendster seems to sense that I’m drifting away from them because I’ve been getting more emails from them lately. They sent one email saying that they improved their photos feature, and then they sent another saying that they improved their photos feature even more.  

Honestly, I don’t know how much mileage I will get out of these social networking pages.  At the current time, I have eighteen friends on Facebook, three on MySpace (including Tom), three on NaBloPoMo, two on Baha’i Communities, and four (okay, really three) on Friendster. I’m not up for increasing my numbers just for the heck of it—I favor quality, not quantity.  In any case, I’ve joined millions of others taking up server space on some computers somewhere, offering friendship.

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