I have four younger sisters, who are all over the place. The youngest is seven. Since leaving the house back in 1998, it became increasingly difficult to play the role of Big Brother (no, not that one, this one). Luckily, I’ve found a way to infiltrate their little worlds – through IM and social networking sites.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, some of my younger family members don’t even have e-mail addresses. I told my cousin to send me her college applications so I could look them over and she said she couldn’t. She only uses MySpace to message her friends (and I guess my offering to help her wasn’t worth her while to sign-up for one – although, for some reason, I don’t even think she knew that was an option).
The MySpaces of the world are a great way to keep in touch with people. I’ve found them particulalry helpful with my sisters. I know I am not the only one who uses them to communicate with family. One girl I know uses her Xanga account as the primary way to virtually interact with her parents (she lives in VA and they live in TX). My mom has told me that reading my blog makes her feel involved in my life, even though she is in NY and I am in D.C. I am not at the point where my parents are leaving comments for me but that might not be that far off (they prefer instead to e-mail me).
Another good example of their use is from my trip to the Olympics. I met some folks who were also on social networking sites. Instead of them just giving me their e-mail address or phone number, they were added to my group of friends. In the event that I visit Los Angeles, I can just click on their pics and message them.
Social networking sites could easily develop into a sort of online Rollodex. As they continue to mature, I am sure the relationships formed within these sites will be refined beyond just the “friends” in your circle. They will give the opportunity to define contacts as “colleagues”, “friends”, or “family”, for example. And hopefully, they will be smart enough to present various access levels, so that if I wanted, my co-worker wouldn’t have access to the information a family member would.
The web facilitates some powerful and fun social connectivity, even when geographic proximity is not possible. I am thankful for that, although the guys who are trying to hit on my sisters probably aren’t.
This entry is part of my week long series attempting to empower and educate people about Web 2.0 and its uses outside tech circles.