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The Social Network Balancing Act

11 Jan

Currently, there are only three social networks that I find myself frequenting: Google+, Twitter and Facebook. These are the three largest social networks out there, if not by size and population than by mind-share and market awareness. People know these three names, even if they hate them for some individual reason. Twitter is too self-absorbed, Facebook is going to take over the world and Google+ has too many tech-hipsters.

Google+ is so hipster, in fact, that these images already exist... and it's not even that popular yet. Also, I totally was.

The problem that I have had for a long time was figuring out how to use each Social Network, but recently I’ve had a bit of an epiphany on the reason why these three specific social networks can co-exist, and I’ve found a way to make all three work for my own purposes. At least for now.

A Note of Caution:

I’ve noticed a bad habit in a lot of people who defend their specific social networks for various reason, and it is that they are defending their specific social networks for various reasons. I’ll admit that I have been known to do this many times in the past. I’ve quit Twitter because it was distracting, Facebook because it was cluttered, Google+ because it was lonely and even stopped using Email because, in my mind, it was becoming antiquated. The epiphany that came to me, though, and I believe this is only because of my recent separation from the deep trenches of the tech world, is that we don’t have to defend anything to anybody. These are just things, after all.

It goes deeper than that, of course, and before I get to explaining why and how I use each of these networks, let me just point out that I do not expect, nor do I want, you to agree with every action that I have taken recently. We don’t have to defend these networks because they are tools (you defend a man who was accused of murder, you don’t defend the hammer that was used to commit the murder). You can use these networks in absolutely any way that you want, and no one can tell you that you are wrong for doing so. Whatever your goal may be in the long run for using Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+ or LinkedIn, use it for that and don’t let anyone else try to convince you to use it a different way (this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t evolve your practices and learn from your experiences, but don’t let a marketing expert take over your personal profile just because they have a different type of relationship with their followers).

It does not really matter how complex social networks are Рwhat matters is that you are using those networks to build a strong rapport and reputation among your friends, family and business associates the way you believe helps you the most.

Does any of this really matter? Not unless you desire to know all of these things.

With that said, allow me to explain how I use each of these networks to connect with the various communities and groups that I have been involved with over the last few years.

Twitter

I have almost no close, personal friends on Twitter that I follow. Twitter is where I read the latest breaking news, check in on the webOS and mobile tech communities (they own that network for me), and send out a few quick thoughts about stuff I’m doing or will be doing soon. If I feel that I have something short to say to my network of tech enthusiasts and nerds, I go to Twitter. I use Twitter to broadcast these blog posts to more of my followers, I post quick thoughts and quotes that have inspired me throughout the day (and I believe will inspire others) and I try to keep tabs on the general activity going on in certain corners of the world.

That last bit is the biggest advantage that I can see for using Twitter. With this social network I am able to do a quick search and instantly know what real, live human beings have said about specific events, places, people or things. People use Twitter to talk about what they’re interested in, and I use Twitter to read what I’m interested in at any moment.

Very rarely now do I use it for conversations or to share a lot of info about something I’m researching. Sure, I’ll retweet a few things from people that I want to support, and I’ll make comments now-and-again to let people know I’m watching them, but other than that I spend most of my time talking about big projects I’m working on or the activities that I believe are important parts of my life (like how I am coming close to finishing my part of Android For Dummies).

I’m trying to stay pretty professional on Twitter while also remaining casual about it all. This is where I get to let my old friends in the webOS and Joomla communities know that I’m still alive, while keeping the personal stuff on the other networks.

Facebook

For a long time, I really fought Facebook. It’s cluttered, way over-hyped for what it is, and is used by smart people in extremely dumb ways.

What I have found, however, is that rather than complaining that none of my friends are using other social networks to talk to me, I should be glad that there is a single social network where everyone is gathering. Rather than hate the fact that people feel comfortable posting stupid statuses or another¬†photo of their new kitten on my stream, I should rejoice that people feel comfortable updating their statuses at all. We could (and we once did) live in a world where when we moved away from our friends, they just vanished from our lives forever. Instead we can keep in touch from thousands of miles away and never skip a beat. That’s valuable to me.

So now, rather than trying to put on a facade of professionalism or pretend that I don’t know people when they share photos from that crazy party they were at the other night, I am trying to embrace it. These are people whom I know, sometimes very well, and at one time may have even loved. We are social creatures, so why can’t I be social and compassionate towards my fellow humans (even when they are acting retarded)?

I also really like having a place where I can post retarded photos of myself and not feel bad about it. Facebook is perfect for that. Essentially, I use this network to show what I’m doing with my life in the real world right now. I try not to talk about tech or business or books or anything else – I talk about activities and friendships and concepts that I believe are valuable for the real world and therefore, real life.

Google+

On the opposite end of that spectrum I have Google+. This is where I choose to show my interests with like-minded people without really talking about the details of what my real life brings. I share links to interesting articles I’ve read that aren’t relevant to my global networks (like the webOS Community on Twitter) or close personal friends (like Brian Hill, who is teaching English in Japan). On Facebook I make things personal about real life so that people know what I’m going through (I take this directly from the new Timeline feature), on Twitter I talk about what my networks are interested in, but on Google+ I share the random things in the world that just look cool to me.

Like this giant close-up photo of an eyeball.

The great thing about Google+ is that through using Circles, I can quickly share certain posts with people that I believe will be more interested in those topics. Sure, I can do that with Facebook too, but on Google+ it is so extremely easy that I hardly even have to think about it, and that’s the key. On Facebook I want people to see me for me, but on Google+ I’d like to share stuff that I find interesting (but may never actually act upon) with other people that might find those same things interesting.

Anyway

You should connect with me to see for yourself, though (if you aren’t already). Friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and add me to your circles on Google+. I like the way I’m using these networks right now, and hopefully these methods work out on your end, too.