Is there a real point to social networking? It is a lot of fun, and it can be a useful way to establish contacts. But it’s usually a black hole of time — a lot of chat without a lot of substance. However, there’s at least one new site that’s trying to offer social networking with a social conscience.
And this is what I woke up to this morning – an article from InformationWeek entitled, “Social Networking With A Point.” I couldn’t disagree more with the statement made in the opening paragraph of the article. Social networking is all about substance. It’s not merely about ones ability to connect with others, but rather the engagement that takes shape following that contact.
The site that the article was referencing is called The Point. It’s an interesting website founded on the premise that people come together to solve personal, local and national problems. Sound familiar? Perhaps that’s because it’s not the only site dedicated to reshaping the way people engage in their community and creatively tackle issues (both local and other).
A great example is the level of organizing taking place on Facebook. Granted I have my issues with Facebook from an advertising perspective, but the fact of the matter is that people are coming together to tackle a broad range of social issues. Take the situation in Burma for example and the number of groups as well as campaigns organized around that one item. In addition, “Causes” (a widget that enables users to start and/or join causes) continues to gain traction as a method for folks to raise funds and promote awareness for the cause of his or her choice. Facebook isn’t the only social networking site promoting community engagement. Ning has flourshed thanks in part to a growing desire for micro communities that seek a means of connecting with a more specific subset.
While we’re talking more specifically about the social implications of social networking tools blogs should not be left out of the conversation. Bloggers are leveraging their medium beyond idle banter, but rather to promote conversations about topics of substance. And how can I talk locality of civic engagement without mentioning blogs like that published by Cambridge Community Television (CCTV), which is all about civic engagement and there are many others – check out Placeblogger for more.
If social networking is to be compared to a black hole, then that metaphor should be representative not of the lack of substance, but rather of the infinite potential of engagement, awareness and action that these tools foster.