Friday, July 23, 2010

Social Media - for good or evil?

Social media - Facebook, Twitter and all their friends - come in for a regular beating in the general media. I don't think I have yet seen any positive stories about the new face of the Internet, which I think is a real shame.

I came to Internet use fairly early on, back in the mid to late 90s. I am defined as an "early adopter" when it comes to technology, which means I usually dive in and see how the water feels, before there are many others in the pool to tell me! From the beginning, the Internet offered new ways to interact with the people I knew (primarily email and email lists back then) and also meet new ones around the globe, via bulletin boards (usually called Forums these days (Fora?). The early 2000s saw me primarily house-bound due to the fatigue of my MS, so this interaction became vital for me and prevented me becoming socially isolated. I flourished in the environment of international friendships and interactions - that most harrowing day, September 11 2001 saw me glued to my computer as friends in the States watched the horror unfold - and posted photos of the twin towers taken from their own NYC homes. Global suddenly condensed.

I took to blogging early on, starting with Live Journal before moving to Blogger (where I am quite happy!)and when my daughter spent two years backpacking in NZ in 2005/6, we read each other's blogs to keep in touch - and also explored the world of MSN Messenger, web cams and photo sharing with Photo Bucket.

I know exactly when I succumbed to the draw of Facebook: I was staying in Wagga with Linda and her husband and as we sat in the lounge room, checking our emails on lap tops, she passed comment on someones status update and I was hooked! While I had heard about Facebook previously, it hadn't properly reached my brain what it was - I had toyed with My Space, but it seemed mainly the domain of people my kid's ages. But Facebook was a world of wonder - lots of people I knew hung out there! That was June 2008 and this is what I posted on this very blog:

Monday, June 9, 2008
I have avoided the temptation, but I weakened this week.

I know myself too well and - yes - Facebook is just my kind of addiction! The collector in me just wants to gather everyone I know in one place! The extrovert wants to say "Look at me!". The social butterfly asks "What are we doing? Can I play too?" The nostalgic me asks "Are you here, I so want you to be here?". The curious me wants to know "what are you up to right now?"

I so don't need another place on the web to distract me (bright, shiny things!), however what is done, is done!

Terribly prescient of me, as I reflect two years later, on my 1033 Friends and my daily interactions with them!

Beyond Facebook, Twitter intrigued me and - once I worked out what it actually was - I signed up with enthusiasm! Different to Facebook, although I have some crossover, what I love about Twitter is the interaction with people whose thoughts I already admire: my news feed brings the wit of comedians and writers straight from their mind to my computer! From Stephen Fry to Wil Anderson to Cal Wilson and Dave Hughes, my day is brightened by their streams of consciousness, intermingled with news from various ABC outlets, P!nk on tour and Samuel Peyps diary entries! This time last year, I was following the moon landing transmissions 40 years later in real time! What not to love!

Blogs are now part of my everyday, with Google Reader doing all the fetching and carrying, all I need do is hit the Next bookmarklet on my tool bar and up comes the latest posts of those I follow! It is like a never ending, personalised magazine :)

Social media has infiltrated every aspect of my online life: I share the books I read on Good Reads, my friends can access the websites I bookmark in Del.i.cious, my photos are easily shared with Google Picasa - the list is so long and so integrated I cannot even think of all the services I use! I have them installed on my Blackberry, so am never bored in waiting rooms. I have a Google Desktop sidebar, so my friends are always there, even when I am alone at work or home.

So,as a tragic Web 2.0 dependent middle-aged woman, what about the risks? What about my privacy? What about weird people stalking me? What about - viruses?????

Well, I am not stupid and online life needs the same security considerations as real life. I lock my home, my car - and I run security software on my computer. I never utter anything online I would not say openly on a busy train. And although it might seem like I tell everyone everything about me - including what I eat for breakfast (steel cut oats cooked in a rice cooker)- I am actually quite careful about what I do and don't post. At the same time, I am more concerned at the risks of identity fraud from someone stealing my mail than I am from someone reading my Facebook Wall! More protective of my handbag than my email address. And - touch wood - I have no more than the normal offers of viagra and Nigerians seeking financial assistance than the average person!

What I have gained has far exceeded any minor negatives. And far from being socially isolated, I have many more opportunities to spend face to face time IRL with people! My friendship circle has grown (with real, actual friends, not just faceless numbers) and I relish hearing their news. I have reconnected with the lost, found shared passions, laughed, cried and shared recipes and book suggestions.

I love it and I want more!


RedWriter said...

I comment on your blog as a fellow addict, though twitter I just dont understand. :) x


Dear Ms. O'Dowd,

Thank God for the Internet and social media in general! :)

My name is Anamaria Costache and I live in Bucharest, Romania. I found one of your articles on breastfeeding on the internet ( and I just fell in love!
I have a 2 year old daughter and I am very interested in helping other moms to breastfeed. We are trying to prepare some "PR" actions for the International Breastfeeding Week and I would like to ask for your approval regarding a possible translation and posting of your article on my personal blog. I must say that my blog is private at the moment, but the translation of your article could also be posted on a specialized forum/blog, with your approval, of course!
There will be no financial benefits for me following this translation/posting on the blog; my purpose is not commercial, I simply want to share with others the information you put in your excellent article.
Please let me know if this would be acceptable for you. My e-mail address is

Thank you very much!
Anamaria Costache