Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Friend Me!: 600 Years of Social Networking in America by Francesca Davis DiPiazza

Friend Me!: 600 Years of Social Networking in America
By Francesca Davis DiPiazza
Published by Lerner Publishing Group, May 1, 2012
112 pages (hardcover)
Source: NetGalley

Anyone who texts recognizes "LOL," "2G2BT," and "PRW" as shorthand for "laughing out loud," "too good to be true," and "parents are watching." But did you know that in the 1800s—when your great-great-great-grandparents were alive—telegraph operators used similar abbreviations in telegrams? For example, "GM," "SFD," and "GA" meant "good morning," "stop for dinner," and "go ahead." At the time, telegrams were a new and superfast way for people to network with others.
Social networking isn't a new idea. People have been connecting in different versions of circles and lists and groups for centuries. The broad range of social media includes wampum belts, printed broadsides (early newspapers), ring shouts (secret slave gatherings with singing and dancing), calling cards, telegrams, and telephones. The invention of the Internet—and e-mail, text messaging, and social utilities such as Facebook and Google+—is just the latest way in which humans network for fun, work, romance, spiritual bonding, and many other reasons.
Friend Me! takes readers through the amazing history of social networking in the United States, from early Native American councils to California's Allen Telescope Array (ATA), where researchers are hoping to interact with extraterrestrial beings. Learn how Americans have been connecting in imaginative ways throughout history, and you'll see social networking in a whole new light.

I was really excited to read this. My husband is getting his PhD in higher education and, essentially, his dissertation is on how well (or IF) Facebook gives social support to college students. Most of what he talks about goes right over my head so I was looking forward to reading this so I would have something to contribute to our conversations. BUT…. then I started reading Friend Me!.

Honestly, I wasn’t impressed with the book. I think I expected to read something fresh, edgy, and reflective of this being about a social medium that has changed how people communicate. Instead it seemed like a poorly formatted textbook that lacked color and interesting details. Also, I feel that teenagers would find this book bogged down with text that is a bit wordy at times.

As a former history teacher I have seen and used a lot of textbooks and much of the information in Friend Me! is what you would find in those textbooks. What I mean is there aren’t cool and interesting details that one would expect to find in a non-textbook history book (ie. How They Croaked). For example, this book made a big deal about the Anne Hutchinson “scandal” that resulted in her being kicked out of the Massachusetts colony. However, this is something that most textbooks talk about so the juicy gossip really isn’t all that new. I would have loved to see some of the secret messages Patriots and/or Loyalists exchanged during the Revolutionary War or even some information about the ways bootleggers communicated during Prohibition.   

Overall, the concept for this book is great. Teens today don’t know a world without cell phones, texting, computers, the Internet, or even Facebook. However, Friend Me! failed, for me in execution. I just don’t think the early version (this is me hoping there were some additions/changes) I read would be appealing to young readers and engage them the way the premise promised.

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