Social networking is where the internet and the world is at.  If you’re not on Facebook, blogging, Tweeting, in a Group or a member of a list — you’re just not connected. But are we REALLY there yet? I notice on Twitter – the microblogging/IRC service – that when people ask for recommended resources, links are just as likely to be to a saved Google search as they are to a web site or list of links. Offline, I hear of conversations between people where instead of taking advantage of someone else’s expertise, the other person will ask about software then say something like “I’ll just figure it out myself, it will be good for me.”
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Photo by Rojer, sourced from Flickr, CC (by)

I also know situations where people spend countless hours learning a technical skill that they will use maybe rarely rather than ask for or pay for help.  I’ve been one of them. Hmmm. It’s really a mindset issue as much as a software or access issue.  In Australia and the US, we’re nations of individuals.  Asking for help is a sign of weakness. Self-made millionaire sounds a lot better than “born into a life of privilidge”. DIY shows are insanely popular (except with people who know what they’re doing).  And game shows make competitions of endeavours such as weight loss that really should be an effort supported by a network and relationships that should really be about personal connections and mutual respect. There has been a growing trend for  people to display and discuss statistics and “friend counts” and “followers” or “what MY blog is worth” or “how hot my Twitter temperature is”.  It doesn’t feel like they’re talking about a network — it feels more like the sleazy dudes who put notches in their bedposts.  As such, it makes me feel less like part of a valued network and more like I’m being used when I see people I thought were part of my network (and I a part of theirs) talking stats and hotness counts. As a rule (and I do make exceptions for good content but don’t consider it a network), I don’t “follow” or “friend” people who have friends or followers in the thousands.  That’s not a collegial network – how could it be? How can there be give and take with those sorts of numbers?  To me, that’s a numbers game with one of two aims:  stoke an ego or provide an ocean of eyeballs for marketing messages. But getting back to social networks — are we there yet? I think there are tools that make it easier to network and people are using them. I know social networks where sharing occurs fairly freely and others that I see a bunch of individuals talking to the ether. So my answer: not yet. But rather than beat myself or others up about it — I’m going to keep moving forward, enjoy the journey and catch myself when I go to a search engine first instead of a space with peer-reviewed resources like Diigo or Delicious first, my network second and search engines only as a last resort.