I am relatively new to social networking and social media. I remember my first encounter with social media was on a new Indian social networking site about 17-18 months ago. The social networking site’s interface was a combination of Orkut and Facebook-style networking (which I figured later after I started using Orkut and Facebook). So here I was on this social networking site but I couldn’t see anyone to network with (it didn’t let you see anyone’s profile unless you were their ‘friend’). On their open chat room, I asked what the point of this site was. I was told by someone that I could invite the ‘real’ friends I knew and grow my network. I felt a little silly. But I already know all my ‘real’ friends. What’s to network with them? I thought the whole point of these social networking sites was to expand and build new networks. I gave up first attempt at social networking within an hour of trying, turn my nose up, wondering what all the fuss was all about when I couldn’t really connect with people I didn’t know.
Thankfully I progressed on to using the social networking sites and even started my own communities, figuring things along the way. Blogging definitely helped my journey in using the many social networking sites. I primarily started building my social networking on Facebook. Initially I found Orkut a lot more ‘social’ and Facebook a lot more ‘professional’. However I now figure it just depends on which communities you connect to on each of these sites. I have since figures that LinkedIn perhaps truly ‘professional’ networking site while Facebook and Orkut have a much more ‘social’ side to them. I have also felt that Orkut seems to have a much larger Indian community than on Facebook before finding some statistics recently that validate this.
The social networking sites have also made it easier for me to remember birthdays by transferring the responsibility to the person whose birthday I should remember J. And like mobile phones ruined my ability to remember phone numbers, social networking sites are making remembering email addresses a futile exercise.
As my online presence grew (though still miniscule compared to many other bloggers I follow), I started getting ‘invites’ to be ‘friends’ on Facebook, Orkut and LinkedIn. Many old colleagues were connecting with me. I get scraps on Orkut seeking my inputs on career and education. I have also started reaching out to people I don’t know. I always try to provide a brief intro/background/intent of my connecting with them. I am petrified of connecting with an old acquaintance with no introduction or an introduction like “Hi, remember me?” What if they don’t? So I play it safe and provide some introduction. It is also better to receive introductions that have some background.
I also figured (again) that humour or something said in lighter vein can easily be misinterpreted. I should know this but still have learning experiences. And no, a smiley in my message does not necessarily mean that the intent will be transmitted and interpreted correctly by the other person. So humour is highly avoidable with professional contacts with who I have not yet established some sort of communication rapport.