Have you joined Plaxo, Linkedin, Myspace or Facebook? Membership at these social networking sites is growing by leaps and bounds. Some of these sites like Plaxo and Linkedin are based on a business platform and can be quite useful for networking, while Myspace and Facebook lean more to the social side of life. If you have not signed up for at least one of these, does that make you a virtual introvert? Or does it simply mean you are cautious, which might not be a bad thing given the risks we face these days in terms of identity theft. The question becomes: “how much of your personal life do you want to reveal to the virtual community?”

Ok, I am a pretty busy guy, so how is it that I have failed to avoid even one of these? This is how it happens: I recently noticed an email from Plaxo with a familiar name attached to it. It was one of my customers. He was a Plaxo member, sending me a message and inviting me to join. “Hmmmm…a customer.” Surely I had to accept! After all, I had to see what he had to say. In order to do that, I had to click on the link and sign up. Before I knew it, I was entering my personal information to complete my registration. “Would you like to have access to even more of your friends and business contacts within Plaxo?” Why of course I would! The next thing I knew, I had given permission for the program to access my Contacts file and it was sending out invitations to everyone in my personal database! “Wow,” I thought, “this thing is like a legal virus!”

Next, it asked if I wanted to link with my Facebook account and share all of my Facebook photos and contacts. Wow, this thing is hungry! I drew the line there and denied access. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened next? Would all of my business contacts be able to see me in my bathing suit during the family vacation? I’m not sure they’re ready for that!

Not even a minute after joining Plaxo, my phone rings and a business associate of mine is calling me to say, “What the heck is Plaxo?” She obviously just received the automatic invite. After I explained what Plaxo was all about, she asked if I had joined Twitter. “Well, there’s one that escaped me,” I thought. “What is Twitter? I asked. “You’re kidding me Jim! Do you mean to tell me you have not yet heard of Twitter?” This comment was enough to spark my curiosity! I had to sign on at least long enough to see what this one was all about!

Twitter asks a singular question: “What Are You Doing?” It enables and encourages you to answer this question conveniently via instant messaging, mobile texting or the web, After joining, you choose who you want to follow and people sign up to follow you. You will receive live updates to see exactly what the people that you are following are doing, and you can send updates to those following you to tell them exactly what you are doing. Example: “I’m at the movies eating a bucket of popcorn!”

Do we really need a blow by blow account of everything our friends and business contacts are doing (Hmmm…can I get my competitors to join)? Even the site’s “About Twitter” section asks of itself, “Is Twitter too Much Information?

After pondering that last question, I promptly updated my status: “SIGNING OUT!”

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