If you're reading this, odds are you're on the internet right now. (Duh! right) :-D
The internet has grown and evolved from the realm of geeks and nerds only, into something that everyone can use and enjoy. What was once accessible only via command line is now just point, click, load/post, and enjoy.
One very positive thing to come from the Internets growth and evolution is the ability to connect (or reconnect) with people over great distances. What was once called just "Social Networking" is now more accurately divided into the two major themes, Social Networking and Professional Networking. The difference between the two is as obvious as their names imply.
Social and Professional Networking has allowed many of us to reconnect with friends and coworkers from ages past (Hi Jan!) as well as more recent acquaintances. Sites like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Plaxo have enabled us to reform and maintain these connections over great distances and varying personal schedules. Its not always easy to manage work, personal, and family time to accomodate social gatherings and events. Any new parent can attest to this. We all fall off the face of the earth for the first few years of our wee ones lives. The internet and social sites allow for us to maintain connections even in the most hectic schedules.
Below are some of the Social and Professional Networking sites that I utilize and recommend everyone try out.
MySpace - This is typically viewed as your Social Network w/ Training Wheels. You can customize backgrounds and auto playing music. Its quite annoying sometimes but you gotta start somewhere I guess and the kids they do love the themes and music. :-)
Typical age of MySpace users are pre-teens thru High School but its not limited to those age groups. I know many adults with MySpace pages and I have one as well. I just never use it much.
Facebook - Time to lose the training wheels and start getting into regular social networking. Now your biggest annoyance is accepting or ignoring all the Application request you'll get endlessly from your friends. I personally credit Facebook with getting me reconnected to many long lost friends. Some that I haven't seen or talked to in over 20 years. MySpace connected me back to a good number but Facebook opened up the floodgates of reconnection.
Typical age of Facebook users are post-High School thru College and beyond. Again, its not limited to this age group but that is the predominate population.
After High School and College real life kicks in and you are considered a "Professional". A professional what is dependent upon your own choices but its still real life and no more school from that point on.
LinkedIn - Professional Networking, plain and simple. You form "links" to people that you work with or have worked with in the past and are then "linked" to their contacts and their contacts contacts. You join Networks from past or current jobs as well as enter your resume information to then search past jobs for others that you might have lost contact wtih.
This is a great site for the job hunter or person that knows of their companies need for talent. Its not about spamming job request or openings but posting the need or desire and then allowing for introductions from someone that might have a "link" to the person in need or needing the connection.
Plaxo - Another Professional Networking site where you form connections to those you work with or have worked with. Allows for the sending of messages through the site to stay connected or reach someone that you have on Plaxo but don't have their current email or contact information. Professional Networking sites are excellent "middle men" for reaching out to people and being reached out to without having to disclose your personal information openly.
Professional Networking sites are not the place for posting up what you're having for breakfast or how hammered you got last night. They are typically more proper and professional in postings and expectations. Remember, the stuff on a Professional Networking site could land (or cost) you a job so keep it professional and proper for the audience and environment.
Social Networking sites can also land, or more frequently, cost you a job. Be aware of your companies policies regarding postings and expectations. (if they have any that is). Take advantage of all the privacy settings available from each site to protect your postings, pictures, etc... as you see fit. Also be aware of your companies Internet access and use policy. If you're not allowed to be on Facebook or social networking sites during the day then stay off. Just because they don't have the funds to block the sites with a proper proxy solution doesn't mean that they are blessing your use of the Internet. Trust me, we IT Security Geeks see EVERYTHING you do from the Office computer. I have a stack of printouts, miles of logs, and a plethora of memories of the stuff I've observed over the years. Its amazing what some people chat about/do/view from work but that is a subject for another blog entry one day.
There are many more sites than the ones listed above. Feel free to try them all out at some point and pick the one that best suits your needs and activity level.