There is something amazing about social media web sites. I guess it revolves around the notion of re-inventing the wheel. Viewers, listeners, readers,the audience as we are known in communications studies have become creators. Without all the filtering of traditional media such as radio, tv and newspapers, we are the message because the medium of the net is the message.

Or is there much more to it than the magnetic and somewhat addictive characteristics of the Web 2.o Revolution?

Just think about it, ten or fifteen years ago did we sit in front of the TV or listen to the radio for say 6 hours each day. Television was important, but who actually viewed that much 7 days a week without fail. But many of us do spend that much time online, Facebooking, Youtubing, sending, receiving, writing and answering emails, surfing the  net and yes BLOGGING!

I lived  life without a TV as a student. Radio was different for me as I worked on a campus station so it was an occupational production hazard.  But I never listened to 6 hours worth of radio every day without fail. There’s also the mobility of the net. You can go all mobile and wi-fi. My son for example, who is 12, sits in Bennigans while we wait for the nosh and answers emails. He has also been designing web pages for a couple of years.

In a way, we can’t really get away from it and every year something else comes out to the point where Star-Trek like next generation technology will be determining our lives.

Another dimension is the plain sociability of it all. I have for example 1,428 friends on Facebook and around 6,000 on MySpace. Don’ t ask me to name them because I can’t. Being an artist making music has influenced this kind of ‘friend’ base and I am not knocking social media sites for doing this as they are a vital tool for promoting new music, ideas and things which more mainstream media would just bypass.

There are also many people who tend to abuse this by hyping how many ‘friends’ they have through programs like ‘Friendblaster’ making them look way more popular than they are. It’s sinister and so desperate when you think about it. A bit like releasing a CD and then getting your friends to buy a couple of copies from retailers to bump up the sales and create a pseudo-buzz.

So where is all this leading one may ask? Well just how many real friends do we all still have? And how many virtual friends are real? Just think about it if there are a handful of things that have eternal continuity, friends are up there with family and life itself. I have a friend who have known since I was 10. Another since I was 22 and so on. But some one I chat to on Facebook, who I have not even met and would probably not recognize on the street, is that really a friend?

At the same time however, the net has been a magical tool for me music and production wise. I have spent the last 8 months recording a CD completely online with a cyber-friend by the name of Dub Caravan. Having Ftp’ed hundreds of files back and forth, we finally completed a mastered release, entitled ‘Virtual Oasis’, set for a release this June, but have not as yet, physically met. We have become close collaborators and partners in a business sense. The virtuality of the work has made it very special for both of us. We will meet finally this summer, on a stage in Cyprus when we start gigging together until then we are cyber buddies who have made a CD together.

It can also go terribly wrong online. Having worked with people from different contexts, some times things just don’t work out. The biggest hurdle is a lack of communication. This is why it is always better to be honest with people when they send you a track. If you don’t like it, just say so. There’ s no point in going with a flow which leaves a bad taste in your mouth aesthetically, emotionally and creatively. And this works both ways. Some one might not like my lyrics, just as much as I may not like the song or production quality.

So having done this online collaboration thing for the last four years its  just  probability, but I eventually found some one who understood me work and vice versa. It was perhaps then inevitble that I would encounter Dub Caravan, because he too has gone through very similar experiences  online that on some occasions just did not work out the way he wanted.

Not every one however is a musician, lyricist, or promoter utilising the net to forward their works. Some people limit friends to people they actually know physically. This makes for a supereb way to keep in touch with actual friends and immediate family. A friend of mine that does this feels no need to add any one else as there are not enough hours in the day for work, kids, and dumbing out on Facebook with complete virtual strangers,

Social media sites then are allusive giving many of us a much more exaggerated notion of who we are and who our friends are. How many of us actually are friends and have become friends is open to much debate. I can still count my closest friends in this world on one hand. I know and they know who we all are. I am not saying all my facebooks, youtubes and myspaces will be terminated. I am not that much of a Luddite. New technology and techniques should always be tried and tested. They are great as long as we know how to use them and as long as we don’t let them take us all over and use us.

Friends…as the pioneering Hip Hop trio Whodini once said “How many of us have them”

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