Are you connected?
Does talk of Prince William joining Facebook, or Lily Allen
blogging on MySpace, leave you baffled? Fear not! Here’s our late adopter’s
guide to the social networking revolution
Wednesday May 16,
This week came the news that
"William Wales" had joined the social networking site Facebook.
Yesterday there was much argument about whether it was a hoax or not. Would
Prince William really post a profile on the net? The answer is: well, why not?
After all, this is how most people his age keep tabs on their mates.
With websites such as Facebook
and MySpace constantly being talked about in the media, it must be easy to feel
like a 20th-century luddite if you aren’t already part of the in-crowd. Here
lies a great disconnect at the heart of 21st-century socialising: either you’re
in (and use every social networking website you can) or you’re out (and don’t
use them at all).
It’s important to remember, then,
that while millions gobble up Facebook and the like, it’s still a minority
sport. Of course, "early adopters", drawn like magpies to the latest,
shiniest things, will sign up for every new website they find, and no doubt
already think Facebook old hat. But if you’re one of the millions of people who
feels left out, or simply left cold, by the social networking revolution, then
don’t worry: our guide, written by dedicated fans, will help turn you from an
outcast into a social networking superstar.
Bobbie Johnson, technology
By Helen Pidd
yesterday, the Facebook group I Poked Prince William had amassed 85 members.
But before the tabloids get their cheque books out to buy up Mark from Northern
Ireland and a bra-clad woman from London called Sally, it probably needs
explaining that, in Facebook parlance, "poke" means nothing more
dirty than giving someone an electronic wave. All 23 million members of
Facebook are able to look up the names of fellow Facebookers and give them an
interwebular nudge. If your pokee pokes you back, you can look at their full
profile for a week, and they yours. This is fun, as profiles are normally
private. Useful, too: how else can you check out whether this William Wales guy
is for real? But mostly people like doing it because it sounds rude (indeed,
one of my favourite Facebook groups is called Enough of the Poking, Let’s Just
Have Sex, and boasts almost 180,000 members).
But don’t worry about that for
now. What you really need to know is that Facebook is simply a way of keeping
in touch with your friends online. Unlike MySpace, it is not a gift for
stalkers and spammers, because you have a lot more control over who can find
you: you can decide what comes up if someone puts your name into Facebook’s
search engine. Ordinarily, you can also see a thumbnail of someone’s profile
picture, and a list of people they are friends with.
The latter function means that
Facebook is like a souped-up, free version of Friends Reunited. Wondering if
I’m the Helen Pidd you went to school with and can’t tell from the little photo
on my page? The number of people from Morecambe
High School I’m friends with will
tell you I am, and save you the shame of poking the wrong person.
Still confused? When you join up,
you first create a profile. This includes a carefully chosen picture, titbits
about one’s life, a facility for uploading and sharing an unlimited number of
photos, a "status" function that sends out a one-line alert to all of
your friends telling them what you’re up to (eg "Helen needs to get a
life"), and a public "wall". All your friends can see what
people write on your wall. This important fact is often forgotten: at a party
on Saturday I had to reprimand a friend for having a nauseatingly saucy
conversation with someone on his public wall.
About that party … it was
organised by Michael, someone I went to school with. He invited 95 of his
Facebook friends. When I arrived at the do, I saw a guy from the year below me
at school who I hadn’t seen since the last day of exams. "I didn’t know
you were still mates with Michael," I said. Turns out he wasn’t really:
they had lost touch and found each other again on Facebook.
By Laura Barton
There comes a time when you have
to choose a side. Good or evil. Blur or Oasis. Marmite or peanut butter. In
2005, after a long period of social-networking neutrality, I chose MySpace.
Like all the others, MySpace is a
social networking site, but the difference is that its social glue is music.
Along with normal people’s profiles, bands have their own pages, maintained by
themselves or their record company, where they can upload examples of their
music, and news about upcoming shows and releases.
This has presented a new way for
music fans (and record labels) to find music, and serves as a worthy
alternative to listening to radio, attending gigs, reading the music press or
knowing what is on general release. It also provides a way for musicians to
communicate more directly with their fans. Lily Allen, for example, blogs
regularly on her MySpace – just this week she wrote openly of being in "a
sea of tears" and researching liposuction and gastric bypass surgery after
people had made ludicrous comments about her weight in the press.
Elsewhere, you’ll find numerous
"celebrity" sites that have been constructed either by the
celebrities themselves or "fans": from Noel Edmonds to Jennifer
Aniston, to Barack Obama, Tony Blair and George Bush. Last year, the Conservative
party had to deny that David Cameron’s MySpace (www.myspace.com/david_cameron)
was a crude attempt to win the youth vote.
MySpace is a little older than
some of the other networking sites – it was founded in 2003 and is now the the
fifth most popular website in any language. It acquires some 230,000 new users
every day and, as of last October, boasted an estimated 106m accounts. In 2005
it was bought by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation for $580m (£290m), a
development that caused many users to bridle.
Signing up via the MySpace
homepage is relatively easy. Designing your profile page is somewhat harder, as
it involves making some potentially tricky decisons: choosing a profile
picture, a quote, and a song, whether you want to "pimp" your page
(ie, decorate it). You will also need to supply a little blurb about yourself,
your hobbies, the music, films, books you like, who you’d like to meet, and
choose your "top friends".
The technology feels fairly
clunky but I find that curiously attractive. The site has a range of functions:
email, bulletins, blogs, friend comments, photographs, groups, videos and
music. Other members can request your friendship (and you theirs), though you
can set your profile to private if you really want to keep the busybodies out.
It might seem, I suppose, an odd
thing to spill out so many personal details on a website, to conduct private
conversations in public, to chat to unknown people in Arizona
just because you both like the Moldy Peaches. But I rather like the fact that
in this impersonal city where I now live, where no one looks each other in the
eye or speaks to strangers on the bus, there is all this warmth bubbling away
By Natalie Hanman
"Bright, colourful and
cheesy" is how one Beboer – a Bebo.com user – describes this
social-networking site. Which might be why it has a reputation for attracting
even younger users than its online competitors, with most of its visitors (30%)
aged 18 to 24.
Bebo, founded in 2005, quickly
expanded to enable sociable young web users to do all they could possibly
desire: from uploading photos, posting comments and sending emails, to quizzes,
picture slide-shows and blogs.
The whiteboard feature on a
user’s easily personalised profile is a particular pull, on which other users
can draw colourful pictures – typically detailing what your friends got up to
the night before. Now, according to the latest weekly audience figures from
Hitwise, Bebo is the most popular website in the "net communities and
chat" category, just beating MySpace to the top spot. A recent deal with
online music store 7Digital, plus the appointment of Angel Gambino, former
vice-president of commercial, strategy and digital media at MTV, is all part of
its push into the music side of social networking, with plans to allow users to
share and download their favourite tracks. In the words of a Bebo spokesman:
"It’s much more intuitive and engaging than Barack Obama having a MySpace
By Bobbie Johnson
Twitter is much simpler than the
other social-networking sites that fill up the internet. All it asks is one
thing – "What are you doing?" – and you answer, either via your
mobile or your computer. Twitter then tells all your friends, via a text on
their mobiles or a message online, and they send their own messages back.
At first, using Twitter is like
walking into a noisy party where you don’t know anybody, filled with confusing
chatter. Too many friends and you quickly drown in the minutiae of other
But once you start getting used to
it, it’s more like dipping your finger into a fast-flowing river: things fly by
and you catch hold of the ones you want.
For some, it’s just blogging for
the lazy. Others use it to message their mates en masse. Like all these
networks, Twitter’s real strengths only appear when you have the right friends.
Still, with the service doubling in size every few weeks, it won’t be long
until somebody you know is using it already. Just one thing – when you sign up,
make sure you add me to your friends list, yeah?
By Aleks Krotoski
You may have heard of Second
Life, a brave new world taking the internet by storm, promising to change your
view of reality, make you a millionaire and give you powerful tools to realise
your full potential. Behind the headlines lies a compelling space that may
change how we use the internet.
When you join Second Life – which
you can do for free – you create your digital persona, or avatar. This little
person can be personalised as you see fit. You can choose everything from the
size of your nose to the colour of your nails.
Inside Second Life, which has six
million users, everything looks pretty much like the outside world: there are
clubs, shops, universities, offices and theatres. Unlike most online spaces,
where you interact with a website on your own, you’re surrounded by other
people, in avatar form, experiencing the same things at the same time. You can
sit down together on sofas and have coffee and a chat (using either your voice
or your keyboard), go to a festival and dance among the throngs to the music
being streamed live – for real – from a bar in Los Angeles,
or discuss the finer points of the art in a gallery.
What makes it special is what
people have done with it. As a world built for and by an international population
of adults with an average age of 33, the space is littered with innumerable
examples of superb interactive design by real-world architects, musicians,
artists and others. As more services arrive from the outside, it has become a
new way for consumers to go online to browse and buy, teach and train,
socialise and surf.
Second Life is a place for
self-expression and for hanging out with friends, limited only by the
boundaries of your imagination. Aleks Krotoski is studying towards a PhD at the
University of Surrey,
exploring the social networks of Second Life. Almost every other website
The sheer, unabashed popularity
of MySpace, Facebook and other big social sites has been impossible for the
rest of the web to ignore. The result is that right now almost every major site
is trying desperately to build some kind of social-network element in order to
This desperate rush to create a
network for every occasion is reminiscent of the dotcom boom, when slapping a
web address on any half-baked idea was a licence to print money. But soon
you’ll see it everywhere: newspapers such as the Sun have already joined in,
niche-interest sites are grabbing hold of it with both hands and it won’t be
long before you see it on the BBC website.
Sometimes the social web works
brilliantly. Flickr.com, the photo website, is a well-regarded pioneer because
it served a brilliant purpose: making it simple to share your pictures with
family and friends.
Often, though, new networks seem
like the handiwork of some internet Frankenstein with pound signs in place of
brain cells. The number of "me too" services and rip-offs is growing
faster than it is possible to count.
Researchers at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, for example, have developed their own network for
pets, the appropriately named SNIF (Social Networking in Fur). With a simple
chip in your pet’s collar, you can track down appropriate canine chums – or
stay away from the dogs you don’t like.
In the longer term, though, the
success stories could be the ones where brainiacs learn to put the power of
social networks to help users, rather than just monopolise their time. One
example is the UK-based internet radio service Last.fm, which matches your
taste in music to other people and uses that "attention data" to play
you new tracks by groups it thinks you’ll like.
Who was it that made the
audacious claim that "there’s no such thing as society"? She
obviously didn’t use MySpace.
· The following amendment was
made on Wednesday May 16 2007.
MySpace was bought by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation for $580m, which is
equivalent to £290m, not £29m as we said in this article. This has been
The dos and don’ts of social
Wednesday May 16, 2007
· If you are planning on
committing, or being accused of, a newsworthy crime at any point in the future,
don’t set up a profile on any site. Us muck-raking journalists will be all over
it before anyone has even raised your bail.
· Remember that it is quite
common for potential employers to look you up on social networking sites to see
if you are really the sophisticated professional you created for the purposes
of your CV. I recently looked up a work-experience person on Facebook: he was
naked in his profile picture. You know who you are.
· Remember that there are certain
things you cannot ever change in your personal profile after you sign up. Why,
for instance, did I ever think it was a good idea to call myself Piddophile on
· If you’re going to decline
someone’s offer of friendship, especially on Facebook, where it is rare for
random people to get in touch, don’t write back saying, "Do I know
you?????" You have probably slept with them. Just ignore them and hope
they go away.
· Politicians: if you need to put
up a Facebook or MySpace profile to promote your policies, you are screwed.
· Don’t invite work colleagues
into your online life. Remember that old friends throwing about playground
nicknames or recalling that time you wet yourself on the school bus may not
seem so funny in a work context.
· Don’t start sending messages or
comments via Facebook or MySpace to people with whom you previously
corresponded by email. That extra click or two to read your one-line witticisms
· Remember that work IT
departments see everything
· Another Facebook one: don’t
discuss private things on public walls. And it’s bad form to flirt on other
people’s walls too.
· If you split up with someone
with whom you are also friends on MySpace, don’t remove them from your
"Top Friends" section. It hurts.
· Never, ever, look up exes on
any social-networking sites. That hurts, too.
‘I don’t need long-lost m@tes’
Wednesday May 16, 2007
The day before the latest
manifestation of our heir to the throne’s premature mid-life crisis, a
32-year-old friend emailed me. "Have you joined Facebook yet?" he
asked. Prince William allegedly signing up to a social-networking website so he
can converse with his toff pals is about what you’d expect from him. But my
mate has a busy job and a vibrant social life.
"No, I have not joined
Facebook yet," I (nearly) replied, "because I am no longer an
adolescent, my development has not been arrested, I don’t need long-lost m@tes
from nursery school, I don’t want to join the Drunken Text Message Appreciation
Society, I don’t have time to check my ‘newsfeed’ for vital titbits such as
‘William Wales updated his profile. He is now looking for whatever he can get
(3.56am)’ and I certainly don’t fancy spending out-of-work hours ‘relaxing’
behind another computer screen."
"You just don’t get social
networking, do you?" sighs another thirtysomething Facebook friend.
Incase uz didn no, I do. Like
most "ppl" I’m socially networking every minute I’m awake, using
newfangled contraptions (email, text message, carrier pigeon) to arrange and
enhance real face time. I don’t need Facebook time.
Facebook, MySpace and Bebo are
just about acceptable if you’re too young to enter a pub. If you’re not, and
want to do the online equivalent of hanging outside the school gates, go ahead.
But they’ll be sniggering at you. "My sister’s a teacher and she said her
pupils who are all on it thought it was hilarious that I should be on it at my
age," admits a 31-year-old Facebook addict.
Online oldsters: the internet is
robbing you of real life. If you’re single, every second spent perusing other
people’s photos on Facebook is a second less to catch the eye of a gorgeous
passerby in the street. If your mind-numbing job plonks you behind a computer
all day, every minute spent on Facebook is a minute lost to do something about
your stultifying situation. And every sensory-deprived hour spent social
networking online is an hour less to savour the thrilling marvel of the living,
breathing, pulsating real world.
* – * – * – * – * – * – *- * – * – *
– * – * – * – *
Norwich, G(reat) B(ebo);
… Un espejo en el SUR.