Social networks in the snowpocalypse
Let me start by admitting this upfront: I love snow. You can file me under the same lunatic-fringe category as Joel Achenbach: I love the way a steady snowfall hushes the surroundings and a blanket of fresh powder makes any place look better, and this never gets old.
In particular, I appreciate a good blizzard that limits above-ground transportation options to feet, snowshoes, cross-country skis and snowmobiles.
So in a sense, you could say I was looking for an excuse to work the past week's snowpocalypse/snowmageddon/snOMG/snoverkill into a column.
But it's also true that the enforced isolation caused by two blizzards-of-the-decade spaced only days apart -- and which came only two months after December's epic snowstorm -- provided a fascinating test case for how online social networks can help people stay in touch under those conditions. It was just dumb luck that Google also launched its own venture into social media this week, Google Buzz, and in the process gave me a handy news peg on which to hang today's column.
My basic thesis is one that I've been exploring for a while: People don't want just one online persona or one service for their social network. They'd rather interact in multiple social circles, not all of which require them to disclose the same level of information -- or even their names. (Witness the excellent FlyerTalk forum; most of its participants have usernames divorced from their real-world monikers.) That's messy and inefficient, but it's also reality.
And it may be why I don't feel tremendously motivated to put all that much effort into Google Buzz. I may be wrong in that hesitancy. If so, I'm sure you all will rush to correct me in the comments.
But first, I'd like to pick your brains on one aspect of snowbound social networking. The next time we get six inches-plus of fresh powder dumped all over D.C., I'd like to venture outside the obvious cross-country skiing spots -- bike trails, side streets and so on. But is there a Twitter hashtag or local blog or Web forum I should search for? (DCski.com is usually reliable for tips on downhill skiing but exhibits thin coverage of cross-country.) Please, enlighten me -- or just tell me about your own favorite uses of social media over the past week or so.
February 12, 2010; 10:08 AM ET
Categories: Digital culture , Social media
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