I am speaking as a user, not an outside critic but as a user so slow that I just realized something the critic probably complain about all the time.
I know... we think that, because it brings us into connection with hundreds of people, social networking ties us together (which it does on a certain level, especially if I have something to promote). However, I have noticed on facebook, the blogs and especially through twitter, an allowance for relational passivity. No longer do we (the Imperial we?) call a friend to see how they are doing and tell them something important. Heck, we no longer even email people. Instead we update each other via twitter, which is fine for those following us, but not for deep friendship. I like knowing what Billy Joe in NYC that I read daily is up to and he should not email me (or even DM me) about his impending marriage.
However, there are some things my former roommate from college and best man in my wedding needs to tell me in person (or via phone/ email). Yes, we can use twitter and fb for personal messaging, but I don't want to tell the world in general that I have a disease or someone close to me died (neither of which have happened) before sharing it with those whom I value for their personal connections, those I am loyal to and are loyal to me. they deserve personal attention.
Along these same lines, people think that a mention of you in a posting is as good as a personal thank you, apology, phone call or email. This is relational laziness. Eventually people notice (kinda like the open letter).
However, my biggest issue as a twitter user for a while is this. It makes us passive and lazy relationally when we are in need of help, advice or support. Too many times I have seen on twitter a need/ want just laid out there with no context (how can we give context in 140 characters? I know this).
Her is how it works: I need an answer to a simple question, so I tweet and someone gives me the answer. Awesome for me.
or, I want to know how to solve a problem, so I tweet and someone give me an answer. Awesome for me.
or, I need a ride to the airport, so I tweet and someone says, "I will take you." Awesome for me.
But, all of this makes me passive and lazy. I have a need, desire or want and I do nothing relational. I put it out there and wait for you to contact me with an answer or salvation for my problem. You, as the one with the help have to do the work and I get all the benefit.
I must say, I do not like this equation, especially as a follower of Christ. It is not good for personal relationships.
Does this mean I will no longer tweet? No. But, it may mean I will pick up the phone or email someone when I need something, before I get passive and let everyone else come to me with the answer... and I may not fall into the trap of affirming and enabling such relational passivity. It may also mean that I don't just use social networking when I have a need, or when I want something done. I may try to connect with people for the purposes of getting to know them, not just using them.
But, probably not.