The gallery of faces listed as “people you may know” paraded a number of accountants and software resellers, along with a picture of my 18-year-old daughter sticking her tongue out.

This is the new world of social networking as adults desperately try to inject themselves in worlds that have been dominated by the young, such as Facebook. In fact, when I mentioned to my daughter, whose pose in her Facebook picture is a familiar one, that adults are putting up business pages on Facebook, she replied, “that’s so wrong.”

It brought me visions of 50-year-olds in disco outfits crashing a hangout for college kids. The kids, of course, will go elsewhere, and it’s hard not to imagine that if enough of our children see our parents’ faces thrust at them as possible friends, that they will do the same online.

What do we make of all these services? Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? There are clearly successful uses of all, but there are equally uses that just don’t seem to fit.

Twitter can be used as a flash marketing service that alerts followers to what the followee has done. The trouble is that if you are following people who generate a lot of tweets, as the posts are called, it’s easy to end up with a page of messages that don’t get read. That happened with an acquaintance who posted 16 tweets in one day.

People can’t wade through this much information, even at 140 characters a pop. That same message came from our senior editor, Alexandra DeFelice, who said she once signed up for RSS feeds from Web sites and found her computer getting machine gunned by alerts for all the new messages. That’s why I have not signed up for a single RSS feed. I made that mistake once in signing up for email alerts from IBM and got the fire-hose treatment.

LinkedIn works as a fact-checking resource and as a way to search for people with rare skills. But it’s not clear how many who join LinkedIn are doing more than displaying a status by accumulating friends.

Facebook? We have an Accounting Technology Facebook page. But the fact that one member posted a picture of a black and white goat as a personal photo suggests there’s a wide array of attitudes about this process.

Which brings me back to my attitude about Twitter. I have friends who swear to its value. And maybe the secret is to be followed, and to follow to keep down the flood of information.

But after looking at a stream of news snippets one day, the description that kept coming to mind was that Twitter is an electronic pet rock.


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