keyboard with people
If your social networking still consists of talking over the back fence or meeting people at a church social, you are way behind the curve. The latest way of interacting with others is an online phenomenon dubbed “online social networking”.

It started way back in 1995 with a website called classmates.comwhere you could interact with classmates from the various schools you attended. Over the years classmates.com expanded to include workplaces and military.

Classmates.com and other older networking sites were all quickly dwarfed by MySpace. At MySpace and most other social networking websites you can post pictures and videos and create online journals or blogs. MySpace and most other services of this type are free.

To join you create a profile with as much or as little information as you choose. You can create a profile that reflects the real you or a made-up personality. (Remember, on the Internet, no one knows if you are a man, a woman or a dog!) Then you invite your friends to join you. You expand your circle of friends by adding friends who are already members. Then you can create groups, instant message with friends, add to your journal, and read about others activities. At most sites you have the choice of making your profile available to everyone or just to your invited friends.

Although MySpace used to be the biggest, several other social networking sites have taken the top spot. Many MySpace users have turned to Facebook which has a cleaner interface and some features not found in MySpace and other sites. For instance, if you have a Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, MSN or AOL email, you can enter your email login and password and Facebook will automatically search your address book and give you a list of your friends who are already on Facebook. Also Facebook is made up of networks, individual schools, companies and regions which narrows your scope of friends. Facebook currently has over 400 million active users.

In general the newest social networks are going back to the classmates.com idea and having a focus to create relationships. Many are concentrating on niches like pets, travel, tennis, cars, golf, and other hobbies and interests. For instance, Linkedin is a website for business professionals where  millions of members meet to form partnerships, get jobs, and share information.

Another trend is social networking that follows your activities and is with you everywhere. Twitter is a rapidly growing website of this type. At Twitter, you simply enter your current activities and watch as your friends enter their activities. Twitter has been described as a type of cyberstalking, but in reality it is more like bragging about your daily activities or non-activities, and living vicariously through others daily lives. You can add to your daily log or view your friends activities through your cell phone or PDA as well as you can at your computer. So Twitter can be your constant companion. Although I see nothing compelling about Twitter, many users have reported it as amazingly addictive. This is confirmed by the websites rapidly growing numbers and widespread use.  On Twitter, you will find every one from politicians to movie stars to business tycoons.

Online social networking is a trend that is constantly changing, but always drawing more and more users. It doesn’t cost anything to join any of these sites, so you may want to try them out just to see how face-to-face relationships are being supplanted by new online networking.

NOTE: To meet and mingle with others online, you can also check out the Compu-KISS Message Boards where you can post comments and read what others think.  It's a friendly mini-community.