Some Thoughts on Social Networking

By way of giving advice and/or comparing notes with other bloggers who use them, I thought last night I'd write some thoughts on some of the big social-networking sites: which ones I use, and which ones I get the most benefit from.


First up, there's my new account on Twitter. Yes, I resisted joining Twitter for a long time, and the thing that still bothers me most about it is the same thing that kept me from signing up originally: the 140-character limit makes it almost impossible to have a real conversation. That said, I've found Twitter unexpectedly useful in a different way: I find I'm often using it as a scratchpad - for bookmarking links to stories I want to write about, or for quickly jotting down ideas that work their way into posts later. And it's far and away the best aggregator for rapidly-breaking news (as I found out during Skepticon IV, when I used it to keep abreast of the unfolding "Gelatogate" scandal).

The other big plus to Twitter is that, unlike its competitors, I don't get the sense it's constantly trying to pry as much information out of me as possible. Anonymous and pseudonymous accounts are fine (something that other social-networking sites have often gotten wrong), and its privacy settings are simple and straightforward, albeit somewhat easier for spammers to exploit than the others.

Next, there's Facebook: the King Kong of social networking. It's still the biggest of all the social sites, and in terms of raw numbers, it still sends me more traffic than any of its competitors.

However, personally, I've never been a big fan of Facebook. I especially hate the current layout, which makes the site virtually unnavigable. And that's not even to mention the constant and bewildering changes to their privacy settings, which I have no doubt are intended to confuse users into unintentionally surrendering as much as possible to data miners, or the creepy way it tries to track your activity across external websites. My countermeasure: I hardly ever log on or post there, other than to announce new posts on my blog, and I don't fill out most of the biographical sections. They can't mine data I don't give them.

The new kid on the block of social networking is Google+, and while it still has a lot of rough edges that need to be sanded off, I think it has potential. The Circles idea in particular was excellent. Unlike on Facebook, where every friend relationship has to be two-way and consensual - meaning that if you're a blogger who accepts friend requests from strangers, like I do, your front page gets flooded with posts from people you don't know - I can choose whose posts I see, and I have precise control over who I share something with. These are both very good things.

But G+ still has to work through some growing pains. There are a lot of seemingly basic capabilities it doesn't offer, and there are readily apparent bugs, like the way it often can't find thumbnails in links I post (Facebook hardly ever has similar problems). Also, I have to admit, I'm a bit nervous about the way it's linked to my Gmail account and other Google services. This seems like putting too many eggs in one basket, privacy-wise.

Last but not least is Reddit. Although Reddit is more of a link-sharing site, I count it among the social-networking sites because I use it for similar purposes. It boasts a very large and active atheist community, and like Facebook, it sends me a lot of traffic - not as much on a daily basis, but I've had tremendous hit spikes from being front-paged there. And I have to admit, it's one of the most reliable guilty pleasures on my bookmarks list; there's always new randomness and hilarity to take in there.

Of course, as regular readers know, Reddit and I have had our differences. As much as it's done for the cause of atheism - raising money for good causes, giving advice, supporting people in tough situations, and so on - it has an ugly underbelly: far too much casual sexism, and far too much acceptance of casual sexism. We can debate to what extent this is just the background cacophony of the internet, rather than something Reddit-specific, but it's something the community could be doing a lot more to police to create a more friendly environment for everyone.

If you use any of these sites, have you had comparable experiences? Or are there others you use that I didn't mention?

Image credit: shutterstock.com

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less