I was recently explaining to someone on Twitter that to me, social media sites are like parties. And like parties, they all have Dress codes, behavioral expectations and unwritten rules. Since every social media site is a gathering of people, this seemed like the world's most natural analogy. I was shocked when a Google search turned up analogies to sports, ice cream flavors and shopping malls- but very few to parties. Since this does not seem to be the millionth shot at explained what to expect on other social media sites, here is my personal take on social media sites you might encounter.
Facebook: Facebook is the neighborhood block party/summer barbecue. Dress is informal, interactions are casual and it is perfectly fine to walk up to a stranger and introduce yourself. Just like in any neighborhood, this behavior might get you ignored in some cases, but in most cases it is a great way to meet new people. It is fine to have a couple of drinks, but don't get stupidly drunk and don't hit on your neighbor's wife. Remember that this is a family friendly gathering, and there will be games. You are not required to play the games, but if you hang out here, expect to get invited and don't get all annoyed about it. If you don't want to get invited to play, don't come to the party.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is an after hours business cocktail party. Dress is still coat and tie, Business casual at the very least. Come, exchange business cards, make deals but don't relentlessly cruise the room or you will be blackballed from future events. Don't walk in with get rich quick schemes and scams. Come to the party with something to offer, contributions to make and have on your professional face. Carry a drink with you, but sip- don't drink and don't get all silly. This is not the office Christmas party and people are not going to forgive you for getting drunk, climbing on the Xerox and making copies of your unmentionables as gifts for your friends.
MySpace: My space is the after concert backstage blowout bash. The energy is screaming high, music and alcohol and antics flow fast and furious. Glitz and noise are the attention getters and it is perfectly acceptable for you to walk up to stranger with a bottle of bourbon in one hand and give them a little goose with the other. You will meet tons of people, but they may not remember you in the morning. Unfortunately, people are taking pictures and you might not want them to remember you that way tomorrow. MySpace is sometimes most useful from a slight distance, where you can still share and experience the music without getting caught up in the drama.
Tribe: Tribe is the party put together by that odd lady around the corner who makes glass ornaments, your aunt Alice, who is sure she was abducted by aliens and your second cousin Todd who builds way cool robots. You are never sure what to expect, or who is going to show up- but you are sure the people you meet will either be interesting or completely whacked. Unfortunately, the music and food here are not what they used to be and the annual event seems to be shrinking. Because the party sponsors are open minded and free spirited, there are some odd forward types who will hit on you, but if you ask nicely they go away and are harmless. That killer robot in the corner keeps the scary ones away.
Vox: Vox is a local poetry reading party. The levels of interaction are low, but the quality of entertainment is generally high. You will find intellectuals, inner thinkers and lascivious lovers of all kinds here. Come, soak it up and hopefully come back next time with a poem or two of your own.
LiveJournal: LJ is like a weekly book club, a bi weekly coffee clatch or whatever other party brings to mind a group of intimate friends who get together frequently. The support and love is great, people speak their mind confidently on many subject, but the drama levels can get high.
Last.Fm: This is the monthly "new music find" party for the college music lovers club. Come, share what you are listening to and listen to what others bring to the party. Make friends with folks who share interests, but understand these are going to be music club friends, they are unlikely to morph into the friends you go shopping with or walk in the mountains with. When the party is over, everyone packs up and goes home to their "real friends".
Bebo: Bebo is a gathering of friends at your local corner pub. A bit of gossip, a lot of music and sharing, very reserved and not obnoxious at all. In an understated way, it is a comfortable place to hang out, even if you don't know anyone at all.
iMeem: iMeem is a local Battle of the Bands party. You never know who is going to randomly bump into you or talk to you and the music ranges from amazing to "who let them in here". Getting silly and flirting isn't the point. If you did not come for the music, you should not have come.
Amiestreet: Amiestreet is the musical equivalent of the opening party of the SunDance Film Festival. You come here to talk and find music, not dates. But the mood is light and friendly. You will find winning small independent artists as well as famous folks showing off their creative efforts. But while at the party, they are all just folks and you can walk up to and converse with the artists, even if you do not know them personally at all.
And then there are Twitter, Friendfeed, and Jaiku. I was going to not mention them at all, but figured the comment storm would overwhelm.. so suffice it to say, I am saving them for the next post.
What other social media sites do you frequent? What sort of party will someone find at your favorite site?