Online Social Networking and RSS

I’m trying to simplify my online life. I was once heavily involved in sites like MySpace and Facebook (with brief stints on LinkedIn, Friendster, LDSLinkUp, and probably a couple more). I still believe these sites can play an important role in helping me keep in touch with past friends, so I plan to keep my profiles at MySpace and Facebook. I want friends to be able to find me if they would like, and the first place they will likely look is at MySpace and Facebook. But I’ve kept only the profile details that would be necessary for someone to successfully identify me, and directed them here, to this blog if they would like to keep tabs on me.

So I’ve gone through my MySpace blog subscriptions and unsubscribed to half the blogs because they were written by people I don’t know or really care about. I deleted about 10 “friends” because they actually weren’t friends at all. I also tried to subscribe to the remaining MySpace blogs with Google Reader, so that I don’t even have to log into myspace to read someone’s blog. I started to wish that everyone would abandon MySpace blogging for blogs hosted elsewhere.

But online social networking sites have a lot of benefits that private blogs can’t provide. There’s something to be said for the Facebook format, where I can interact with one friend, but everyone else can read our conversation as well. And it’s easier to keep tabs on everyone else if all of their personal web pages (profiles) have the same format. What it lacks in personality, Facebook makes up with standardization, which I find facilitating.

When keeping contact with friends online, I have a hard time keeping track of the most current email addresses for all my friends, and if everyone opts out of MySpace and Facebook for private blogs, the decentralized nature of this system will likely lend itself to less interaction between friends.

The only hope for this situation is RSS. I’m new to the world of RSS. Until now, I’ve ignored those “RSS feed” buttons all over the internet, hoping they were a fad that would eventually disappear. When I recently decided that it wasn’t going away and that it was time I figured out what it was all about, Google Reader has become very useful. But you’ve got to be on top of this stuff. Subscribing to a MySpace blog was easy. Getting the right RSS feed address into Google Reader is trickier. I know IE could keep track of them for me, but I think I trust the Google servers more than my personal computer to keep track.

So how do you manage your RSS feeds (and what the flarf is Atom?)? Does anyone use Google Reader? or IE? or is there another way I should be keeping track?

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