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'Lifecasters' show extreme side of social networking

It's just before noon, and Jeni Searcy is sitting in her room, talking to a friend about driving to the Apple Store to buy a new iPod.

It's a normal, fairly mundane conversation — being watched by 58 people on the Internet.

"Well, I'm out of here," Searcy says into her webcam before shutting it off. "Y'all have a good day."

Searcy, 21, is a "lifestreamer" or a "lifecaster": someone who broadcasts her daily doings over the Internet.

Whenever the mood strikes her, Searcy turns on her webcam and streams live video of herself onto Justin.tv, a Web site where people can watch her every move. Searcy, who goes by "Jane" online, also continuously updates her friends and fans through blogs, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

A college student and barista at a local Starbucks, Searcy is an extreme social networker. She carries her phone, computer, webcam and camcorder everywhere.

"I haven't met a lot of people like me," she said.

But experts say social-networking junkies — people consumed with e-mailing, texting, tweeting, blogging, podcasting and videoing — are everywhere. They're college students, marketing professionals and journalists. They're attention-seeking extroverts and anxiety-ridden introverts. They're young; they're old.

And they're here to stay.

"It is a large group and growing," said Temple University psychologist Frank Farley, former president of the American Psychological Association and an expert in human behavior. "They literally exchange messages, in some cases, hundreds of times a day."

Consider: The number of minutes users spent on Facebook in the past year has increased over 700 percent, from 1.7 billion in April 2008 to 13.9 billion in 2009, according to a Nielsen online report released last month. Users spent 5 billion minutes on MySpace, 300 million on Twitter and 202.4 million on LinkedIn.

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