For now, let's put it this way -- my attitude toward social networks rests on two adjectives: intrigued and skeptical.
While some have plunged head-first into social networking, my dalliance with the phenomenon has always been more of a dipping-a-toe-in-the-water sort of thing. My Plaxo and LinkedIn profiles mostly exist as placeholders in case I'm ever desperate for a job. My (pitiful) MySpace page was first created for a story I had to write about a year ago, and no one has shown it much interest since. In all that time, only one person whom I know in the real world has wanted to be my friend. (No, Tom Anderson doesn't count.)
Meanwhile, as so many studies have shown, Facebook is where my social networking action is. I don't even actively solicit friends and yet I have 54 of them, and find myself on it almost every day. Its pull is undeniably intriguing, like looking at a dashboard of what some important people in my life are up to. You could still call me apathetic compared to many others -- I haven't responded to pleas to play the "Name of the Brands from Logos" quiz or the "Are You an Ad Whore?" movie quiz even though I so clearly am. I don't have the time -- and then I ask myself: who is it here that doesn't have a life? Me, for not having enough time for this stuff? Or my Facebook friends?
In ways that I haven't learned to articulate yet, social networking has enhanced my virtual world of professional contacts in ways even previous digital communications revolutions, like IMing and emailing, have not. What it hasn't done -- yet -- is come even close to mirroring my offline life as I assume it does for people who are, well, younger than me and in a different phase of life. They are not fortysomething suburban soccer Moms. That's where my skepticism comes in: is the lack of interest in social networking from my non-digerati friends a sign that it just hasn't reached certain demographics yet, or is it that it's of limited utility beyond certain demographics?
Maybe during the course of writing this column every week, I -- and we -- can answer that. In the meantime, feel free to email me your ideas. Or ask to be my Facebook friend.