Depending on what social networking site they are talking about, I give them an answer.
About blogs? "I used to work at newspapers, so blogs give me a forum like a weekly newspaper column." I haven't made it a regular habit, but I enjoy it when I get around to it. I have more ideas than blogs posted.
About Facebook? "It's a fun way to connect with people." I recently joined Facebook and it's been a way to talk with people from high school and college that I haven't spoke to in years. Granted, in this society of over sharing, I may know too much about their sleeping patterns or personal musings and they probably know more than they want to about me. I didn't think I would enjoy it. Now, that I'm there. I like it.
About Twitter? "What is that?" is the most asked question. I try to explain the magic of compacting thoughts into 140-characters. My efforts to Tweet impacted my writing at a recent retreat. I laughed to myself as everyone expanded well beyond the instructor's two to three sentence instruction. My opening was compact and within the parameters. I chalked my brevity up to Twitter.
I like the idea that I can post a snippet of a conversation and try to sum it all up quickly and in a few sentence. I don't have to ponder a 500-word post for a full-sized blog. I type. I edit. I post. I Tweet. With Twitter, I have the satisfaction of knowing I have completed a micro-blog without compiling a "must do" list of blog ideas. I Tweet and it's published.
I told a physical therapist who pondered the uselessness of Twittering the Conan O'Brien joke about social media. I can't recall it now, but the punch line was great. The new media of the future will be "YouTwitFace." Nice, huh?
I've discussed Twitter in more than 140-characters, but I can't stop myself. I tell the guy how I use Twitter to follow authors, writers and people I don't know, but who seem interesting. I follow caregivers, who have provided helpful information on family matters. I post links to promote my blog posts. I use Twitter as my own personal newsfeed.
Had anyone told me a decade ago, I would be commenting about the weather before going for a walk, I would suspect he or she had a screw lose. This information is of no value to newspapers or TV stations, but someone in my hometown may find it valuable that it's 98 in my neighborhood at 8 p.m. while their neighborhood hoovers around 100. The Weather Channel isn't going to find this news earth shattering, but in Del Rio, Texas — the difference could create another kitchen table conversation.
My dad was asking, "What is the point of it all?" the other day as we were driving back into Ellijay, Ga. My mother was being transported from a hospital in Atlanta to Ellijay. I was in the passenger seat of his car, passing the time with the iPhone.
I looked up and saw tents surrounding the new Chic Fil A. "What's that?" I asked, but he didn't know.
I posted a note on Facebook. Within four minutes, a friend provided an answer about the phenomena of the tents. In the old days, I would have to wait for the weekly newspaper to be published to find an answer to my question.
"This is the point," I said flipping my phone screen toward my dad. I read the answer. I think even he was impressed the information was so readily available.
As a news junkie, I like the fact that within minutes I can get information from a variety of sources. A person still must consider the source, but it's satisfying to get simple information in a matter of minutes from other observers.