Social networking sites used to be viewed as just the newest addition to the strange, constantly connected and technologically obsessed youth generation. But times are changing. Social networking sites are no longer used exclusively by the oh-so-misunderstood world of 20-somethings. They are becoming more and more popular in the oh-so-misunderstood world of politics.
Recently, Politco named “The 10 Most Influential D.C. Twitterers.” The good news? It’s bipartisan! The number 10 political Twitterer is Al Gore, who Twitters mostly about, you guessed it, the environment. At number seven is conservative Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who writes about his daily events in a manner only decipherable by some:
posted at 1:15PM on Feb. 13, “CSPAN 530pmEST. FIANAL vote stimulous)porkulus bill I vote NAY. Pres signs 800B$ bill Mon primetime TV.”
President Obama, the man whose very own technology-focused campaign has much to do with Washington’s new embrace of social networking sites, comes in at number four on Politico’s list. And topping it all off, at number one, the king of the Washington Twitterati is none other than Karl Rove, who seems to be amassing a Twitter-GOP coalition.
Of course, though the most unexpected group of Twitterers, our country’s politicians are not the only new group of people now taking advantage of social networking sites. Many businesses and organizations now have MySpace pages and Facebook groups, including The Commonwealth Club. The New York Times wrote an article last December on “How to Use Social Networking Sites for Marketing and PR.” And recently ABC announced that San Francisco school teachers are going to be taught how they can integrate social networking sites into their curriculum, the hope being “that if a student is having trouble raising his hand and asking a question, then maybe he'll feel more comfortable reaching out to his teacher on his MySpace page.” What was once viewed by many as an intrusive form of technology may now become an educational tool.
David Ewing Duncan, who moderated The Commonwealth Club event “Online Personas: Defining the Self in a Virtual World” on November 30th, 2006, stated that J. A. Barnes, who coined the term “social networking” in 1954, “decided that the ideal number of people to interact in a social network was 150 people. … The combined networks of the panelist sitting to my left…[are] about 40 million, 50 million people.” Those panelists represented the popular social networking sites Facebook, MySpace, Second Life and LinkedIn. Those combined 50 million people in 2006 have turned into 175 million users for Facebook alone, according to Facebook, with its fastest-growing demographic being people over 30. Social networking sites are simply too vital in this day-and-age to be ignored by any generation or occupation. On April 4th, John Blossom, the author of Content Nation, will speak at The Commonwealth Club on how to use social media to create new opportunities in one’s personal life and career.
Who would have thought that one day the most off-the-record among us, the people that make up our government, would voluntarily be sharing their every move? Social networking has changed our reality, and now more than ever we are all connected.
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