Many people are discussing whether social networking is good or bad for us.
That's the wrong question. The right question is: Are the technologies you are using empowering you?
The question becomes what do I get out of the technology I'm using? It isn't a selfish question, it's a matter of pragmatism.
Blogging is great when it: (1) Gives a platform to express your ideas (2) Provides a means to broadcast those ideas (3) Allows you to receive feedback on those ideas and finally (4) allows you to organize your thoughts so that you can eventually present them in a more structured format. [The last step happens when the blog becomes a book or a startup or a project.]
Twitter is great when it (1) lets you carry on a conversation that should be overheard by whoever else may be interested or (2) query your peers for information at a moments notice.
Facebook is great when it (1) lets you catch up with old friends or (2) plan family/friend outings, or (3) share interesting information with friends and family.
The downside of Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs is that we get addicted to the stimulus and the feedback loop closes in until we're so desperate for more feedback we lose the self control to develop our ideas, our thoughts and our resources.
It's so easy to end up posting redundant or rehashed pet peeves.
It's much harder to do original thinking, especially when all the information you're consuming is the same information everyone else is consuming, which is quickly trending to regurgitations of things you all have already written and read.
The question of whether the technology empowers you, or whether it handicaps you applies beyond social networks as well.
Email, mobile phones, skype, all of it. Use it when it empowers you, when you are the one benefiting.
Drop any technology that's holding you back or sucking up your time.
Dropbox is a great example of technology that empowers you, it stays almost invisible and makes sure that any changes to any of your files are applied across all of your computers wherever they may be. You aren't by any of your computers? Oh, well then your files are also available to you on the web, or on your iPhone or wherever. Get the idea?
Blogger really allows me to focus my ideas and get them out of my head, making room for more ideas and allowing for others to comment and give me feedback on my existing ideas.
Facebook hasn't been particularly useful except to remember people I had long ago forgotten, but if I'd forgotten them, perhaps I didn't need to remember them? Occasionally, I have to admit, I can find an email address or phone number on facebook that I'm missing.. but that's the most helpful it is.
Buzz is next to useless -- turns out most of my email contacts waste as much if not more time than me sharing idiocy.
Twitter is great, but it's difficult for people to learn and takes time to make a case for why it's useful. (It's the epitome of the long tail phenomenon.) Personally, the investment of time is too great to accomplish anything that would truly empower me, which is why, even though I understand its benefits, I invest very little energy in twitter.
"Tablet" computers don't generally empower someone anymore than any other computers empower someone. The iPad is something different - it does what I want it to do faster than a more powerful computer will do the same thing -- that's what I mean by empowering.
"Smart" phones give us portable access to the internet, which can be empowering if we aren't just feeding our own feedback loop addiction. It only empowers if it makes your life easier or better. No question that smart phones pre-iPad were not empowering, with the exception of the BlackBerry.
The point here is don't waste time and energy on paranoia about privacy, addiction, or trends, the point is: Use the technology that empowers you, junk all the rest.