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Beyond Belief- About face-book

The news today (3/18), Facebook has officially eclipsed Google. According to the Silicon Valley’s Mercury News “If you logged on to Facebook last week to share a photo, brag about your child or disclose what city you were born in — you may have helped push the Palo Alto-based company past a new milestone: Facebook for the first time had more traffic than Google on a weekly basis in the United States.”

Whoa, and I only joined Facebook to bug my kids. Really, I had no idea I was going to be a part of a wave of change in our new age of instant gratification. Social Networking, as it is called, has exploded into a national pastime. It is here on the island and growing daily. We have hundreds perhaps thousands of Put-in-bay Facebookers and fans.

Friends, neighbors, distant relatives, the circle just keeps growing. Here’s a list of just a few local fan sites I know of related to Put-in-Bay. The Lake Erie Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy, The Roundhouse, Perry’s Cave, First Island Son B&B, The Beer Barrel, Bob Gatewood, The Boathouse, Bone Lady, Ray Fogg, The Ohio State University, Middle Bass Town Hall, The Put-in-Bay Brewery, The Miller Boat Line, Ohio State Parks, and on and on it goes and we’re just getting started.

If you are already on Facebook, you may notice the some people spend a lot, I mean hours every day sending messages, looking at pictures, giving their thumbs up approvals and two cents worth. I know this may just be the tip of the iceberg for creating a larger online consciousness across America, or at least the islands. Middle Bass has set up a “town hall” on Facebook that has encouraged discourse and idea sharing that might not have been possible without the connectivity power of the Facebook network.

One Internet sage told me that websites and email, as we know it might well be a thing of the past in a just a few years. These interconnected networks allow instant communication, idea sharing within groups or among individuals and you don’t have to deal with commercial spam. Forget about MySpace, Linked In, AOL Instant Messenger, Flicker and Twitter, you got be “here” to be in touch.

And the best part is when you see a person walking (or driving which is even scarier) somewhat haphazardly down the road; you can guess they are texting, tweeting or Facebooking. I can guess that it won’t be long before we will be paying a surcharge on our car insurance to pay for tangling with the “lost” wanderers of the new realm.

The Internet has grown like a weed. When Michael Jackson died unexpectedly last year, people “tweeting” and “googling” nationwide nearly crashed the Internet. Now, an interesting “tagged” photo shared between friends (read the Facebook privacy statement) could very easily be seen by thousands in seconds, really!

How did this happen? Mark Zuckerman created Thefacebook in 2004 while living in the dorm at Harvard University. Within a year Facebook was on the Internet and a huge hit among college students. The idea of having a social network, a way for college students to mix, mingle and learn about each other in a safe setting, their dorm room, was instantly popular. Parents were initially happy to know that this new way of socializing would mean a safer school environment. Then they wanted to get involved to see how it worked. True innovators and what we call first early adopters realized it could be much much more. Today families and baby boomers alike are fueling the amazing exponential growth of Facebook.

Facebook is a wide-open experiment in communication. Honda Cars learned this the hard way last year by using social networking to promote their “brand”. They had no idea that public opinion could backfire so quickly on their “great idea”. They called it their “Honda Love” experiment. They set up fan sites for all their cars, existing and new. The experiment wheeled out of control as negative comments started to appear especially on their new “crosstour” site. This snowball effect of emotional messaging created a PR debacle of immense proportions and one that Honda is still reeling from today. What can we learn from this? We may not always like what we see and hear in a world of electronic media.

If you have a business with a fan site on Facebook you may get comments that are out of line from time to time. Sometimes people can be mean spirited. So the question is, are you ready to ride the new wave of Internet connectivity and see where it takes you? I am. And I am really hopeful that with the use of some good social skills and manners we will go a long way to making this a positive and meaningful dialog for years to come.

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