Saturday, 23 July 2011

Living in the E-world

Q: What would Egypt be without the internet? A: Gypt! (as heard on television)

Participating in the 23Things programme last year and some personal experiences in online networking has not changed my skepticism about being involved in, linked in and faced with all the different "eyes" in the world wide net. The world used to be so different, really "social", meeting people through traveling, visiting, participating in conferences, talking (I mean really TALKING) face-to-face or over the phone, or even writing letters. We then evolved into e-mailing creatures and now we are computer chair-bound and computer screen-glued E-people. With all the advantages of this stage in the development of the human species (speed, comfort and number of things we can share and learn), isn't it a little bit sad that for some of us it seems to be enough? That there is no urge to go out and meet some real human beings from time to time? The Social network film shows really clearly how the whole idea of social networking grew in the mind of an antisocial person.

As my homework for the Thing 6, I went through most of the recommended readings online. It took much more time than I really should have spent on it - links coming one after another are dangerous traps. Time - our friend and our enemy. Where to find more than 24 hours in a day? Do people who net-work so much, tweet so often and are linked in and to so many sites, have time for doing anything else? It is interesting, of course, and educating, and much more, but it cannot be the substance of life, even of the life of a professional librarian or a paraprofessional library assistant. Even if this paraprofessional individual wants to become professional.

I didn't want to be as critical as it came out. There are great things about the internet and networking. Facebook seems to solve lots of difficulties when contacts with people who are far away are to be kept, LinkedIn - for the same reason but on a professional platform. Easy ways of finding out about things, getting quick answers to all sorts of burning questions from the comfort of your own home or office, no matter the distance and weather, is simply delicious (sic!). But it cannot and should not replace personal contacts with people. After all there is a life outside of the computer. My daughter just called me and asked if I had seen the sky tonight. I looked through the window - the sky was pink like raspberry ice cream and beautiful. No, I didn't see it until she asked me. Of course not - I was looking at the screen and the keyboard for most of the evening!
Having said all the above, I am going to join the LinkedIn and the LISNPN possibly too. I have Twitter and Facebook accounts and in my library our work Facebook account is being created. We hope that our library users will visit it more frequently than the institutional intranet site. Also it will be strictly on library matters and will not be "buried" among any other tabs on the site. So the conclusion is - there is no escape from the internet and networks. Perhaps we do not exist (xist?) without internet? We just need to be more selective choosing sites and online groups to join. Once more - time is a limit.

P.S. Talking about Facebook - I have just recently learnt about Google+. It seems to have some interesting features (e.g. the circles which allow to share different things with different people) but will it be successful in replacing Facebook - the social network giant? Will Facebook users be happy to transfer their virtual life to a new site? Perhaps these two forces should merge? Also, the name - Google+, is it good enough to catch on?

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