Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Online Communities

Like many, I've been intrigued by the prospect of online community. Over the years I've joined various list-serves, and really enjoy the ones I'm on now, especially Lucipo. I delved into the new generation of virtual communities, MySpace, Windows Live Spaces, and Facebook, though, just this year, and have to say I find Facebook (profile here) the most comfortable of these. Perhaps it's just that one of my kids, Bryan, a student the last few years at UNC in Chapel Hill, was already on it. My daughter Lydia, who just joined, seems to feel comfortable there too, and last night I became online friends with MinJung Kim, a Korean student from Japan who spent the last school year with Lydia and her mom. It's ... well, familial, literally and otherwise, at least for me. And there are a few poets there; one of my first friends was Ron Silliman, whose blog I read almost daily, and I've exchanged notes with adventurous (I'll have to ask Mike if he considers himself "experimental") Canadian poet Mike Boughn, whom I last saw in 2002, as well. Thomas Rain Crowe, Evie Shockley, Will Hubbard, and Chall Gray have all become Facebook friends with in the past two weeks; there are almost enough of us to start a conspiracy! The mode of mutual presence there, it seems to me, finds location somewhere in the vast space between active, engaged correspondence and total insular silence. You're at the party, and can dabble in conversation, plunge into it, or just glance around while sipping your drink, as the moment provides.

On MySpace, on the other hand, it seems that everyone who wants to be my "friend" is some nubile young thing who wants me to see photos of her that actually aren't on MySpace ... you get the idea. Or sometimes it's a software developer pretending to be a nubile young thing in order to get me to download and install a supposed spyware blocker. Yeah, right. Like I would ever buy software so presented. It's made me feel that the MySpace world is as bedeviled by would-be predators as some parts of the non-virtual world where I've learned not to venture.

You mileage may vary, as they say, but I'm glad the developers of Facebook have opened it to the public at large, and look forward to exploring it further. Eventually it may be uninhabitable (I think some younger users find it disconcerting that older folks - even parents - have entered their domain, so this may already feel true for some of them), but for now, I'm there. Drop by if you're in the neighborhood.


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