DEAR CHARLOTTE: I just got a new phone that is more like a computer! It is “smart” in that it does a lot of things, like takes pictures, has a clock and calendar, and still makes phone calls… It even has a keyboard on the screen so I can press letters more efficiently when I call in my prescription refills.
The main reason why I selected this phone was because I no longer live close to my friends, and I wanted a way to KIT (hoho, keep in touch!). I used to tell funny stories, share news clippings of interesting articles, and forward photos from my trips.
I am told that I can do all this with my new phone. But there is so much out there… Where do you recommend I start? Oh, and I also have a data plan now so I am hoping to use no more than 1 MB per month. One million bytes… I know!?
Can you please help me, dear Charlotte? – PHONE FROM THE FUTURE
DEAR PHONE FROM THE FUTURE: Welcome to the 21st century! Smartphones, as they are also known, have been used since the early 2000s, and feature the powerful combination of phone, camera, video recorder, personal digital assistant, portable media player, and GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation unit. You have entered an exciting new world!
While your new phone can be used in a number of ways using these functions, it is clear that you are interested in learning about social networking, or using your phone to connect with other people.
There are three popular programs out there that may fit your interests:
1. Facebook. Perhaps the largest social networking site, Facebook is a program that allows you to connect to “Friends” online. After creating a profile, you seek “Friends” and share your feelings, your photos and anything else personal and precious to you.
With top-notch security and ease in navigating your settings, you can feel comfortable that your information is safe and not used in any underhanded moneymaking schemes. (There is a lot out there with the Internet!) Another plus is you can share your feelings and thoughts, also called “Status,” as many times as you like so everyone can experience your day with you. They can also show their deep appreciation with a thumbs-up symbol called “Like,” or “Comment” when they have something useful or insightful to add.
There are, of course, some downsides as well. “Friends” on Facebook can include your nearest and dearest friends, and people who looked up your name and want to sell you something. Also, a feature called “Newsfeed,” which is intended to provide highlights from your friends most interesting to you, is always wrong. What is included in your newsfeed is nine times out of ten, not interesting to you at all. Lastly, should you “Like” an establishment or business in order to score free bedding, they will just send you crap that you have to endure until the drawing is over and you can “Unlike” them again.
2. Twitter. Rivaling Facebook, Twitter is a program that relies on posts called “Tweets” to share information. Unlike Facebook, which is centered on friends of varying degrees, Twitter’s posts are public unless you have a private account. Another user can “Follow” you or simply search for various tweets online, sometimes using subject matter characterizations called “Hashtags.”
Twitter is great for keeping up to date with the unformed thoughts and gut reactions of celebrities and average folks alike. With a limit of 140 characters, it also requires users to be “crtve” (creative) about how to shorten the English language to nonsensical combinations of letters. It is like a little puzzle! And with the potential to follow thousands of users, there is no shortage of information available to “Reply” to or “Retweet” (post a credited tweet from your account). Who needs quality face-to-face time with people!?
The downsides primarily relate to loss of time and the life moments you will never get back. By following multiple users, particularly prolific tweeters, you can easily spend hours scrolling and sifting through tweets that are in fact, banal conversations between two people in a platform the whole world has to endure. Other downsides include all the crazy people who form the significant percentage of Twitter users. They border mental instability and/or retardation and, I admit, it can be very upsetting to see how far we should have come and have not. Sarah Palin and followers come to mind. Lastly, if you enjoy proper spelling and prefer higher than first-grade cognitive abilities, I do not recommend Twitter for you.
3. LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a networking site that allows people to connect through “Connections.” Used often as the professional equivalent of Facebook, LinkedIn allows users to create a profile with experience, qualifications, and other interesting information about themselves as well as “Updates.”
The benefits of LinkedIn include allowing the professional ‘you’ to shine. While Facebook and Twitter provide many glimpses into the narcissistic you in your personal life, LinkedIn provides the best platform for you and your ego to go on and on about your professional accomplishments, true and perceived. It also allows for concessions to those who think they are friends with you, but where you choose not to include them in your Facebook or Twitter world. The unexpected benefit of LinkedIn is all the time and freedom you gain because the site is boring and you shorten your time on it accordingly… particularly as Twitter no longer directly links to it.
The downsides of LinkedIn include the potential to feel the underachiever as others boast of their kudos (acclaim, not candy bar). Also, random people who know people you know, continually “Invite” you to be a connection when you have no idea who they are. Even moments to “Ignore” these invitations are moments you will never gain back.
I know that was a lot of information, Phone From the Future, but as you can already see, there is a world of social networking possible for you to explore. I wish you great luck in genuinely connecting with your friends, and beg you to take pause with anything to do with Kim Kardashian, NASCAR, or lame rhymes using “shizzle” or “freedom.”
Oh, and you will need to upgrade your data plan, or reading this online will put you over capacity for the month…
Dear Charlotte is written by Woman at Tastes Like Onion. Write “Dear Charlotte” at firstname.lastname@example.org.