A few weeks ago I posted a simple request - no, a whine, really - on my status update on Facebook:
"Jodie is wondering if I can get new duct tape to replace the sticky, old stuff that has been holding my office chair arm rest together."
A co-worker, a Facebook friend, responded that duct tape wasn't in the Dispatch budget. Another co-worker asked if I would settle for old duct tape stolen from a colleague's chair.
And then, two days later, it happened.
I was sitting at my desk and noticed my arm no longer stuck to the chair. Someone had replaced my bad tape job with new, shiny black tape. To this day, no one will tell me who did it.
And that's when I realized the power of Facebook.
Facebook is a popular and fast-growing social networking Web site. In other words, it's a virtual meeting place where you can post photos of your kids or grandkids, send messages and share information to only people you've accepted as your "friends." It's easy to sign up and it's free. On your home page you'll get a running newsfeed of all the changes made on your friends' Facebook pages, whether they added new photos, have taken an obnoxious quiz, like "What color crayon are you?" - I'm a yellow - or changed their status update, which tells others what you're doing or thinking about. Sort of a conversation starter, really.
When I was home on maternity leave with my daughter, Madeline, now 6 months, Facebook saved my life. Although I loved being home with her, Facebook allowed me to connect with other adults, including friends and cousins who had babies of their own, and we commiserated online about our sleep deprivation and the endless stream of spit-up on our shirts.
Through Facebook I've reconnected with long-lost friends, including my friend Debbie in Belfast whom I haven't seen since I was 10, and become closer to my cousins, who live throughout the country. I've renewed friendships with a former foster child who lived with my family and classmates from high school I haven't seen since graduation. In fact, four of us are organizing our 20-year class reunion on Aug. 22 mostly through Facebook. (Insert shameless plug here: If you're a member of the Pequot Lakes Class of 1989, please join our Facebook alumni group, "Pequot Lakes Class of 1989" to make sure we have your address to send an invite to the reunion.)
I'm also on MySpace, a similar social networking site, but I only use that to keep tabs on my 15-year-old daughter's online activities. She loves MySpace because it is more music- and teen-oriented. She joined Facebook to keep tabs on me, to make sure I'm not posting embarrassing photos of her.
Last month, I joined Twitter. Unlike Facebook, where you connect with people whom you have shared experiences (high school, college, same family, etc), Twitter is where you connect with people through shared ideas and thoughts. People may only send Tweets, or messages, that are 140 characters. You may share what you're doing, your opinions of what's going on in your world or your community, etc. You can "follow" other Twitterers, like celebrities, your friends or news organizations like the Brainerd Dispatch or CNN, to get updated information on breaking news. You can also send direct messages or reply to other Twitterers using the "@" symbol before their Twitter domain name.
To find something you're interested in on Twitter, go to search.twitter.com and type in a search word or visit nearbytweets.com, a way to find people who Tweet in your area. Go to celebritytweet.com to find celebrities who are on Twitter.
Linkedin is another social networking site that allows people to create a network of personal connections that potentially could turn into career or business opportunities. One of my Facebook friends lost her job eight months ago and hasn't been able to find anything since. She had joined Linkedin three years ago but didn't do much with it. Recently she reached out to Linkedin and snooped through friends of friends' networks and found a businesswoman whom she thought might be able to help her. The woman, who is a social networking consultant and an author, has now become her mentor. The two spent the day together recently.
"I have not found a job yet but I am no longer looking for a desperate fit," my friend wrote to me on Facebook. "I am looking for 'the' fit. Without her, I would be frantic and desperate but thanks to Sue I am taking one step towards the rest of my life. She is amazing and her charity has helped me in this crisis ... and she was right here, 10 minutes from me. Linkedin to fate, you could say."
So what are your social networking stories? How have Web sites like Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace helped make positive changes in your life? Did they help you find a job, a long-lost friend or relative? Please share your stories at the end of this column online at www.brainerddispatch.com.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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