Online social networks are not just for Realtors and they are not just for business. It is hard to imagine that I would make such a claim considering they were not invented for marketing or for real estate in the first place, and that everyone seems to use them.

There is a personal side to social networks, and as time goes on it seems to be getting lost in the shuffle. Things have changed and I find myself doing some digital fall cleaning to get myself back on track.

One of the biggest changes is that the definition of "friend" has changed. Many are people I don’t know at all and whom I have never met. There are more people who are trying to "engage others," but they don’t allow themselves to be engaged so I can’t really get to know them or have a conversation with them.

There are people who I am connected to on social networks who were friends. Maybe they still are friends but I have so little contact with them that they are more like acquaintances than friends.

I lurk on their pages to see what they are up to, and then move on. Over the months the contact is infrequent, and eventually I forget to check their feed, blog or Facebook page.

On Twitter I follow about half of the people who follow me and have started "un-following" some who have a lot to say but who never seem to say it to anyone in particular.

It is possible that I don’t understand social networks. I see them as a way to engage in conversation, and as a news source.

But as the number of relationships I have increases and the number of relationships that my social network friends have increases, the quality of those relationships diminishes. They don’t seem like relationships at all. They are more of a distraction that has to be filtered out when I look at my feeds.

It is a widely held belief among the experts that businesses must have Facebook pages if they are to survive. I am not sure I believe it, but I started a page just in case. I question the long-term viability of trying to create a sense of community with a business-related Facebook page that no one really cares about. …CONTINUED

Most people are not capable of maintaining an infinite number of relationships. I am capable of maintaining a couple of hundred, or maybe fewer. I can’t know everyone — or even remember all of their names.

Some of my personal relationships have begun to disintegrate because of social media, which is the real reason behind the fall cleaning. Friends and family spend so much time interacting with others that they don’t have time for anything else.

Nothing kills a personal relationship like long periods of time with little or no contact, or repeated contact in the form of requests for favors or updates about what they are doing that seem more like infomercials or pitches.

The first step was getting rid of some Facebook connections and changing some of my privacy settings so that some of the things I share with close friends and family are not so public. Most of the connections I deleted were people who I do not know and have never interacted with.

The only things we have in common are a real estate license and a Facebook account.

The second step, which I am still working on, is limiting the number of people who I have contact with through Twitter. I have disconnected from a few, but I am mostly using software to do the filtering so that the tweets from the people that I interact with show up in columns on my computer’s desktop that I can easily monitor.

It is a little like using voice mail to screen phone calls or folders to organize e-mail.

I would classify my social networking as out of control, and too time-consuming. It took a few years for me to get to where I am today and I hope I can straighten out this mess quickly.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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