The first social network I joined was LiveJournal back in 2001. At the time, I thought of it purely as an online journaling system. I didn't understand how the friending mechanism worked, nor the deceptive name applied to the feature (something that has thankfully been replaced with "following" on other sites). I often wrote entries there expecting no one to ever read them. It often felt like writing letters to no one in particular, then casting them upon the will of the four winds to whomever would find them.
The anonymity emboldened me. I wrote about things that were actually on my mind, instead of bottling them up as I had been raised. Frustration, fear, worry, depression, quixotism, fascination, and humor. Many say that the internet is where people put on masks; to me, it was the first place I was able to take mine off.
Things changed of course. LiveJournal became all the rage, creating a sprawling online community of people. I continued to write, but often with growing apprehension. I slowly began closing the loop and locking things down. No longer was it a wide open vista, but a room. The door was often open and the windows could be easily seen through, but there was a clearer separation between the Internet at large, and my little section.
Events occurred that forced me to close those openings completely. The windows were shuttered, the door was closed and locked. Little did I realize that the supply of fresh air was now also depleting. I ventured out rarely, and often only to lock things down all the more. Bars were installed. Boards nailed to the wall, cartoon-fashion.
Social networking often works the best for outgoing and open individuals that feel they have little to hide, or no one worth hiding from. My pessimism can't help but see that attitude as naive.
Today, the social networking scene has exploded across the entire world. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Identi.ca, and the new contender, Google Buzz. It's hard not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of information one is required to read every day in order to say current. And lately, I often feel much like this: