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Facebook is no fad

Facebook is no fad
Commentary: Social networking is a basic human need

by Adam L. Penenberg
“NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — With Facebook registering its 300 millionth user and investors valuing Twitter at $1 billion, it’s time to put to bed the notion that social networking is a fad. It’s not. It’s our destiny.”
Good article.
Many of us in library land have been saying this for quite a while – at least in internet time.
What I usually say is something like:
Social media like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are still a very new experience and quite different from other media – it’s the next generation of the web. The internet is truly just reaching its toddler stage. I believe that it is probably impossible to truly understand the nature, role and growth of social web media from the outside looking in. My own experience is that it was quite different inside in reality from my own expectations and assumptions. Indeed the very frame I was using was misaligned quite a bit. It didn’t take long on the inside to set the sails right though. I guess it’s a bit like trying to explain pregnancy, parenting, your own marriage, or even sex to someone who has never experienced these. You might have a somewhat shallow understanding of these experiences but it’s just never the same as your own deep personal experience. So, in order to better understand social media it’s well worth getting in and learning the ropes. I don’t assert that people must be there all the time or stay there forever, but they should recognize that they can’t truly understand the environment unless they’ve given it the good old college try. If they don’t, then they have an uninformed opinion and not a true experience-driven one. If they find they don’t like it or it doesn’t work for them, then OK. Get out and delete your accounts. You made a decision based on truth and experience and not rumour and prejudice. Just don’t make policy or criticize others based on your imagination. Always test. I hear people who have never seen Facebook or Twitter or blogs telling other people about such sites with opinions that are made from whole cloth! They have opnions about stalkers, privacy, and other issues that are truly uninformed by any sort of knowledge. It is a distressing point of view in the general public but it is particularly distressing in people who call themselves information professionals. When the majority of key library users are in these spaces it is important for the library to be where the users are and serve as a guide – as we’ve always done. Otherwise libraries could be choosing to be outside of the mainstream and risk irrelevance. And without personal experience of the space, they won’t know how to recover, if they can.
What really scares me are schools that ban most social media and the people doing it are making an uniformed decision based on fear tactics. The result is that social media are pushed underground. And that worked so well for cigarettes, liquor and teen sex. Not a great strategy. If they think the kids are safer then they are truly delusional.
Either way, information professionals have a professional obligation to learn and evaluate all major new technologies and determine when and where these might be useful in the service of learning, community and the social good.
If we don’t, then who will?

Posted on: October 13, 2009, 1:37 pm Category: Uncategorized

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