Following is my take on it.
Every tool or product has to be evaluated/tested/analyzed to see if it fits the person, with respect to:
– Is it something the person enjoys doing?
– Is it in line with the person’s personality?
– Is it cumbersome to use?
– Is it safe to use?
The first point is very important. As with most things in life, do not pursue something which you do not enjoy doing, especially when something is in the realms of Social Networking (i.e. a hobby or personal action). The second point is critical because if a person is very private and feels uncomfortable sharing details (even harmless details), Social Networking is probably not for that person. The third point is what drove me away from Google’s Orkut. I personally felt that it was just not User-Friendly. Facebook is much more User-Friendly, as proven by its sheer number of users. The fourth point, safety, is very important to make sure you are safe from scammers, spammers and other dangerous elements. Facebook has been having a lot of challenges in this area. One should review the Privacy/Security settings regularly and make sure no critical information is revealed to anyone. For e.g. you can set the profile such that only people who you accept as “friends” can see your whole data. Of course, the primary requirement is that you post only items that dont create trouble even if it is hacked into by some dangerous elements.
In this day and age, when we all are juggling hundreds (if not thousands) of personal and professional action items, it is impossible to physically meet and be in touch with all your friends on a regular basis. To me, Facebook is a quick way to keep in touch with my personal network. I share pictures, share videos, share jokes, wish friends on their Birthdays, and even find long-lost friends (e.g. friends from way back, say Grade6).
I have trained myself to be quite disciplined about the time I spent on Social Networking. Every day, I spent a maximum of 20 minutes (on average) on Social Networking. I log in, review the posts from my friends over the past 1 day, make comments as required, do my post for the day and get out! There are only 2 exceptions to this: (a) Times when I am stuck somewhere. E.g. Waiting in line at some place, Coffee break etc. I might use my Smart-Phone at these times to do a quick review of my Facebook account (b) When I post pictures from my various travels, which I typically do during weekends. I like to put comments on my photos, rather than just do blind postings. Though it might take more time, I spread the task over several weeks, to keep this activity to within 30-40 minutes per week.
So, my advice is:
– Make sure Social Networking is for you
– Set time limits and make sure you do not spend too much time on it, which would penalize you on your other personal/professional fronts
– Review and set security/privacy settings appropriately
Go with the trend. Internet is the present and it is definitely going to be the future!