An ongoing theme through the first week of our Germany trip has been facebook. It seems that everyday I’ve mentioned it to someone – often explaining what the point of it is for the user (staying in touch, finding out what your people are doing and letting them know what you’re up to without making an individual effort, voyeurism, rediscovering old friends, showing-off, advertising your product/band/event, recommending books/music/Franzbrötchen, being inspired, relaxing your mind and wasting some time, etc.) and mostly trying to ignore all the disconcerting theories of 1984/”Big Brother watching” or the fascinating and maybe just as troublesome idea of “the alternative Internet” as described in a recent Wired article.
or the result of a conversation that started with: look, I can take a picture with my BlackBerry and upload it directly to facebook – from Germany!
It seems a little weird to sound like I’m peddling a huge social network or company that quite possibly may be the one laughing at all of us in the end – or to be pushing for something that may totally strip our sense of privacy and blow our individual vanity seriously out of proportion.
But for right now I think it’s a great site with excellent opportunities for social interaction. Mainly I’m hoping that more of my friends and family will join facebook – because I enjoy knowing what’s going on with them as well as all the sharing/recommending/showing-off stuff.
In regards to privacy, I keep telling them how in the US upon first meeting someone socially, we hardly ever give anyone our phone number or email address anymore. Instead it’s “you’re on facebook, right?” – “Of course.” – “I’ll find you there.” You don’t have to give anyone your real contact information anymore and it’s up to you how much you want to share on facebook. Maybe this is a silly comparison – but it’s something worth thinking about. But the very first step after signing up for facebook of course is to make your profile only visible to friends and to follow a few other helpful steps to protect your privacy.
When talking about facebook, MySpace came up a few times. While we have a page for our film company, I never set up an individual one. It always was too cluttered for me and by the time I discovered it a few years ago, it just seemed to be a platform for advertising your band/movie/acting career. In that context I’ve very much enjoyed seeing the MySpace page for the Berlin Band Radiopilot last week: MySpace is too slow for us.
I’m a member of other useful progrmas and sites, like skype, ichat, linkedin, goodreads, ilike and twitter. The last three feed directly into facebook, which again is a big plus point because I only have to go to one site to utilize all of them. From what I understand there are other sites and programs in the works that are supposed to do an even better job of being your one-stop dashboard to all your social networks and communication sites.
I should add that I’m fully aware that Germany has its own social networks, like studi.vz, stayfriends.de, etc. – and I’ve signed on to some of them. But I (selfishly?) prefer facebook because it can include my friends and family of all languages and nationalities and it integrates so many other sites and applications I like to use.
Twitter deserves a special mention because, while it at first seemed so pointless and vain, it now works for me as a tool for gathering quick current news and most importanly through it, I’ve recently been able to reconnect to some very special old friends of mine. After “following each other” for a few months now, we finally got to hang out again last night and fill in the blanks between the 140-character updates.
So concluding, after two wonderful evenings with friends (some of whom I’ve known for decades but only get to see very infrequently when I travel to Germany or when they visit me) it becomes overly apparent again that, while social networks are very fun and a great way to stay in touch casually, nothing beats sitting for hours with dear people in the Spielbudenplatz or the Hamburg Hafen and get actual real live human face time.
With this in mind: my dear friends, thank you for a lovely time in Hamburg, please find me on facebook and I can’t wait to see you again soon in Hamburg, New York, Berlin or wherever real life takes us.
Here just two impressions from Monday during a spell of rain while sitting around the Kiez for old times sake. In an effort for some privacy protection and to lure the abstaining friends in, the other pictures are on facebook…