Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Building my Media Empire one Social Networking Site at a Time

See, if I never end up having a media empire, it will be likely that nobody ever reads this. But if I DO end up having a media empire – whoa! This will seem really prescient. “Look, dude – he KNEW way back in 2009 that he was going to be a mogul. Mike’s a frakking genius!”

And yes, I do believe that either Battlestar Galactica’s “frakking” or Farscape’s “frelling” will come to be the default clean cuss-word by the time I have my media empire in place. I’ll use my control over pop culture to ensure it.

All of which is just a long-winded way of saying that I’m now present on several social networking sites. And, let’s be frank, long-winded is the only way I know how to say things. I only do short-winded after I’ve played a game of Dance Dance Revolution with my daughter. I’m also aware that anyone who both knows me and knows what DDR is is now forming a mental picture of me playing it, followed by a bout of intense, hysterical laughter. Entertaining you is my raison d’être.

So, social networking. Blogspot, Facebook, Twitter, all that crap. I never really had much use for it. I’m just not that social a guy, truth be told. I rarely just “hang out” with friends, and I’d be hard-pressed to find time if I wanted to. In person, I attend a writer’s group, meet a good friend for coffee once a month, and get guitar lessons from another friend every two weeks. Beyond that, I basically just hang out with my wife and kids, which is fine by me.

Online, I’ve been a regular on a couple of forums for ages, but there also I don’t have a cadre of buddies with whom I chat or exchange electronic correspondence of any sort.

In fact, I’ve been online in various forms since the early 80s. My initial exposure was primarily through mainframe-based dial-up services like CompuServe. Email and chat rooms were there from day one, along with message forums, file libraries and multiplayer games. Since then, I’ve seen technology grow to include things like Instant Messaging, personal websites, texting, Skype, webcams, and the more recent catch-all of “Social Networking.” None of these things ever held much interest for me, because for any of them to be relevant there had to be other people you wanted to communicate with in some fashion. They provide both one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many interactions, much of which was extraneous when I was just me. There were exceptions.

Two of the earliest “blogs,” one of them from before the term had even been coined, were really funny and I enjoyed reading them a lot. They were Mil Millington’s Things My Girlfriend and I have Argued About, and Ali Davis’s True Porn Clerk Stories. Ali started writing her journal in 2002, by which time Blogging was beginning to become a “thing” in itself, but Mil’s work went back to at least 1998 (Edit - 8-8-09 - Mil tells me he started "Things" around 1996 or 97, and that it's not, in his opinion, a blog), as that’s about when I discovered it. I remember we did a short segment on blogging on the Point ‘n’ Click TV show back in 2002 and it was still pretty new. I remember that, despite these two examples (which I didn’t really think of as blogs at the time), my initial reaction to the “web-log” or blog concept was “who the hell wants to read somebody else’s journal?!?"

My opinion of blogs didn’t change much when they became more popular – in fact, if anything, the poor quality of so many blogs lowered them all in my esteem. The internet has thrown open to the masses certain “one to many” types of communications that were once the exclusive purview of journalists. And journalists, in magazines and newspapers, need to demonstrate a level of competence both to get hired as well as to get their articles past an editor. The Internet had removed those shackles, and suddenly the unwashed masses, as it were, were typing up whatever vague thoughts crossed their minds with no deference to such mundane and passé’ concepts as grammar or spelling or, heaven help us all, punctuation. No, I had very little use for blogs.

Likewise, sites like Facebook and Myspace became popular after I’d completed my undergraduate degree, and seemed for a long time to be largely the domain of college students quite a bit younger than I was. Again, their contents were minimally-moderated and didn’t seem relevant to my interests.

So what’s changed, you might wonder? I’m not really sure I know. Certainly there are still plenty of blogs out there where people butcher their mother tongue while droning on about every tedious aspect of their lives. And likewise, Facebook has no shortage of “Woo! Th4t partay wuz aw3s0m3! i got so wasted!” (translation: I had a wonderful time at your recent soiree, though I suspect I may have overindulged in the spirits. I sincerely hope your cat’s fur grows back.)

But like so many niche products that gain wider acceptance, both blogs and social networking sites have gone mainstream such that they’ve finally got something to offer almost anybody – even an anti-social curmudgeon like me. Next time - where I went and why I bothered.

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