Finding Your Own Social Networking Stream

Different social networks.

Sometimes, it makes sense to interact on different social networks. iStockPhoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockPhoto.com

It's almost become one word: facebookandtwitter. Those two services are dominating social networking now. MySpace is waning, LinkedIn is just for business, and Friendster has literally fallen off the map (of the U.S., it's now owned by an Australian company and functions largely in Asia). We both use Facebook and Twitter, but both of us also have social networking lives beyond the sites that are dominating our peer groups.

Eyder: I got an invite to hi5 from my uncle, who lived in Nicaragua. When I accepted his invitation to join the social networking site, it was like walking into my grandma's house in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

It was a world apart from Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. I found a circle of relatives and old friends I hadn't seen in years. In some ways, it was my parents' world, all the people they talked about being "back home," all the kids I was friends with before we moved States-side.

Hi5 is, with few exceptions, a lot like MySpace. Each user has a profile and a wall and you connect with people by friending them. But my Facebook and Twitter worlds rarely collide with my hi5 world. In fact, in hi5 I speak Spanish, everywhere else, it's English.

Sara: LiveJournal is my social-networking home. It's sort of a hybrid blogging and social networking site. Users write personal journal entries and read feeds of their friends' journals. Since 2004 I've written almost every day, sometimes a couple of paragraphs and sometimes thousand-word personal essays. Reading the entries of my LJ friends - all of whom I first met by reading their journals - is very intimate. I've consequently met several of them in person. I can't imagine getting to know someone on Facebook or Twitter and then wanting to meet them IRL. After the intensity of reading journal entries on LJ, quick status updates and photos feel fun but shallow to me.

My wife loves the quick, drive-by nature of socializing on Facebook. In our house, we say that Facebook is like having a conversation by your locker in high school. You have to be witty and fun because the bell is going to ring soon. Ellen also uses Ning. She has a big group of friends she sees a lot on the weekends. One of the guys in their group set them all up on Ning as well. They make plans for camping trips, share photos and organize parties with Ning. Its main selling point is that it's very customizable. The friend who got them on Ning is very tech-savvy - he works for one of the big Silicon Valley companies - so he liked the custom CSS, multiple privacy layers and custom search features. You can set up a page that has as many tabs as you want. It can accommodate multiple blog entries and you can even control what kinds of ads Ning sells on your pages.

Ellen is very un-tech savvy and she never would have gone to Ning if her friends weren't there. Where your friends are plays a huge part in social networking. Part of the reason I like LiveJournal is that I've invested more than five years in LJ and I have a lot of friends there. Eyder wants to go to hi5 when he wants to connect with people he knows in Nicaragua who are more active on hi5 than on Facebook.

I'm sure sometimes, we all wish it was all in one place — that the friends Eyder made in Nicaragua would be in the same place as the friends he has at work, that my LiveJournal community would follow me to Facebook, but maybe that doesn't make sense. Maybe, just like it's nice to listen to folk music in a coffee shop and hip-hop in a club, each set of friends deserves a dedicated room.

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