Writing for one of the blogs of the New York Times, Susan Cheever explains her feelings of "Drunkenfreude" as New Year's Eve approaches, which got me reflecting upon the relationship between drinking, the holidays, and online social networks that I've been thinking about lately.
I'm not a non-drinker, but I certainly understand Cheever's sentiments, and I'm sensitive about the way that I am perceived by others and thus want to maintain an air of sobriety even if I choose to imbibe. This extends to the way I want to be seen on sites like Flickr and Facebook. If I'm at a party and a digital camera comes out, I tend to be one to put my drink down before the shutter click or place any alcoholic beverages behind my back or the backs of others. In contrast, many of my friends on social network sites or media sharing sites can be seen happily toasting, clinking glasses, or proffering a glass to the Internet viewer.
According to Alcoholics Anonymous, the holidays can be a difficult time for those in recovery, so I visited the national AA website to look at its user interface and to see how they might be incorporating online tools in their presentations to the public. Although AA clearly constitutes an established social network, it delivers its services largely through face-to-face meetings and mentoring and by disseminating print ephemera to potential members. Although Facebook has a number of ad hoc groups for both AA and its euphemism "Friends of Bill W," the organization does relatively little to maintain a sustained online network. However, the national AA group does offer podcasts of the ironically named Grapevine and a directory of office locations that are accessible through Google maps. The Southern California local chapter is no better, despite the fact that a better designed calendar application for those seeking meetings would be an obvious service to offer, since their current collection of online calendars omits a number of districts.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving also has a largely pre-social media website although they do host a MADD blog.