Think/write about your own motivations for using social media and joining online communities. How are your motivations and goals similar to the early Wellites and virtual community members? How and why are they different?
My first real entry into social media was when I made my first permanent account on Facebook my sophomore year of high school (the first time was a fluke to satisfy peer pressure and to play a prank on my friends; it was deleted a week later). Until college, who I friended on Facebook was extremely selective, to the point where eligibility required an inability to see me in person at least once a week. This meant that any friends I went to school with, sung in choir with, or played sports with, didn’t receive a friend request from me until they fit the bill, whether that meant graduation (mine or theirs), dropping an activity (me or them), or moving away.
Why did I do this?
Part of it, in truth, was the influence of my parents. And in retrospect, having a Facebook at 13 probably would not have been the best idea. (If you’ve ever friended a 13 year old or seen a status written by a 13 year old, you would probably agree). But my arguments as a sophomore in high school were the following:
- If I could see you and talk to you in person, what would be the need for communicating with you through Facebook?
- It makes more sense to use Facebook as a means of keeping in touch with friends out of state or out of sight.
- As an introvert, I needed to recharge my social batteries upon coming home; having my school friends “virtually” in my home would only serve as extra stress.
- If you really were close to me and cared about me, you would find other ways (and there are numerous) to talk to me, via text, phone calls, email, Skype, and so on.
As Joe mentioned in his blog post about the same topic, my intentions for Facebook were very much about connecting with people that I already knew in person, rather than meeting new people. I also was not interested in maintaining a large network of friends, and I kept my activities or information mostly on the DL until college. In that sense, I was very much not a “WELLite.”
While I still maintain a certain degree of privacy online, I have broadened my visions a little bit more over time. Through gentle peer pressure, the Omegle/ChatRoulette fad, and the communities that I passively participate in now, such as Tumblr, Ravelry, and Pinterest, I am beginning to see the benefits of finding new friendships and places to belong online. The amount of collective information that members of a site can compile is staggering, and even more staggering is the amount of emotional support that you can find in various ways. I think those were the goals of the WELLites: to cross geographical distance and unite individual experiences in beneficial ways to all of us.