A couple observations, if I may...
Here is a relatively new phenomenon that wasn't too prevalent just a few short years ago. Until fairly recently, most distant relatives, former classmates, etc. didn't exist much beyond a distant, hazy memory. Images of these people who were major players in our lives previously, are frozen in time. All we typically had were memories and/or possibly a few photos from that period. Depending on how well we stayed in touch, an occasional photo might come our way at Christmastime, or perhaps we might bump into them somewhere. Beyond that, they were out of our lives.
In an incredibly short amount of time, social networking has had a massive impact on this norm. So much so, that one could make a case for the tsunami effect it is having on our evolution as a species. Considering the many implications, one big impact most certainly has to be our ability to now wipe away the imaginary visual association distant and former acquaintances may otherwise project on us.
Suddenly, we can post a picture or set of pictures we all wish people to visualize us by. It can be current, not so current, or perhaps an avatar that represents our own concept of who we wish to present. This is such a foreign concept to how things were not so very long ago.
As I read over what I have written so far, it somewhat occurs to me how old school I may come across with this writing. What we all currently take for granted with social networking was absolutely NOT the norm until such a short time ago. Now, it is completely embedded in our culture. And it has all happened so quickly! Yes, I guess you can officially call me old now.
Another interesting phenomenon is how many work and education environments choose to pretend online social networking doesn't exist. The official default seems to be to block it and it might go away. Some schools/workplaces even punish students/employees for using it on their clock rather than choosing to embrace it. Why not instead use social networking as an educational or marketing opportunity for these schools/companies?
We commonly hear about how writing and language skills are decreasing, due to texting and internet chatting. Perhaps a teachable moment approach might be for students to be granted the privilege to social network at school during designated times, only if they use proper etiquette and grammar. As for companies that choose to block, why not open their eyes and look at the big picture? Realize the potential if all your employees are networking there. Set some parameters, if you must, but encourage creativity for the good of your company. Employees may just possibly reward you with better attitudes and ultimately, increased productivity.
As one who has buried his own head in the sand at times, I can truly admit that upon pulling it out, it felt good to grab that huge breath of fresh air! Here's to profile pics and keeping our heads above the sand.
Jeff Van Devender
Alpine Road Publishing