I was just thinking about what a social network is—basically people sharing information (often too much information) between with things in common. When I thought of it that way, I realized that campers have had social networks a long time. Think about what camping was all about. For many people camping was about getting together with others, away from the routine, and sharing—telling stories, playing games, pot lucks around the campfire, etc. When you went to a campground, you automatically became a part of the community that had formed at that place and time.
With this in mind, it makes sense that social network sites would be popular with campers. This is just one more way for campers to interact and share. It extends that community created by sitting around the campfire so that you can share with people even after you leave. Think of those people you met in campgrounds that you connected with, but have never seen again.
Personally, we use facebook, which is considered the most popular social networking site with an estimated 550,000,000 unique visitors each month (most popular). Over the last year facebook has been an integral part of our adventure.
We were able to monitor the status of our winter home as the hurricane blew through the area. Since there were people who stayed in our community through the summer, they were able to post updates on facebook, complete with pictures and personalized commentary. This provided us peace of mind because we knew our friends were safe and that the village was not damaged.
I reconnected with many friends over the year, and got to know them again; however, there were two that were especially rewarding. We had dinner with one of my best friends from high school who I had not seen in 30 years. We also had dinner with a couple we knew while I was on the submarine. We had not seen each other for 18 years.
Of course, along with good comes the bad. I received a “chat” from a friend asking me to wire them money because they had just been mugged in London. Well, I knew she was not in London, and asked myself, “if you had just been mugged, would your first action be to log into facebook and ask a friend to wire you money?”
Of course, someone getting access to your system is probably the worst thing from these sites, but there are other downsides as well—such as too much information about your identity or schedule. If you post enough out there, people might be able to get your identification—or, worse, if you have children, the wrong people can “get to know” them, which could lead to problems. Also, if they can figure out things like where you live and you post a status of your vacation, they know your house is empty (not good).
There are other minor issues as well. For example, if you “friend” everyone who requests, you will increase your number of friends (some people think that the point is to get as many friends as possible), but then you have even more people knowing what your are up to. First, not that many people would find my status interesting; and second, these “friends” who do not actually know you might become upset about some of your likes or opinions. Personally, I’ll stick with “friending” people in moderation, just to avoid any “extra” drama.
Lastly, the games! It seems that the games can be addictive. So, like anything else that can take up your time, moderation is best.
So, take advantage of the social networking sites, because there are tons of positive ways to use them; but remember that it is a tool and you need to determine how to use it to your advantage without allowing it to cause issues for you.