03 May 2008

Anti-social networking

For an emotionally stunted technologist, I've got some grumpy old man, Luddite-like tendencies. My cellphone, for example, is a Razr which I bought shortly after it came out. You might think I did that because at the time, it was the newest, hottest, sleekest thing. You'd be wrong. I bought it because it was thin and fit comfortably in my pocket. I occasionally take pictures with it, *very* rarely check my mail with it, but mostly just use it for texting and talking. When I upgrade, I'll be getting the newer version because it's smaller, has a better camera, and allegedly a better address book.

That's it. No surfing, no mp3 playing, no video streaming, nothing.

My Ludditism (Ludditeness? Ludditity?) extends to the web. Now, I've been online for a really long time. Back to the early '90s with email, BBSs, and IRC. I wasn't a huge freak, but I chatted, emailed, participated in a few newsgroups, and downloaded my fair share of porn. While I appreciate the need to have an online presence, mine has always been shallow. Hell, I've had a hosted website since '95 that has absolutely nothing on it. Wait, scratch that. There's a link to my resume, but I pulled that old copy of my resume off some time back, so the link is dead.

A few years back, I joined LinkedIn (profile) because it makes perfect sense to me. Here's a tool for professionals to use to expand their *professional* networks. Mine's not huge, but it's a decent size with an adequate number of recommendations. Good for job hunting, though truth be told, no job opportunity through LinkedIn has ever panned out for me. No worries. Someday.

About two years ago, because a couple of my younger friends were on MySpace, I created a profile. I hate that place with a great and burning passion - the poor graphic design, the endless webcam spam, the culture. I have 17 "friends" there, most of whom actually are friends of one sort or another, but it's certainly not where I go to communicate with them. The only thing I do there is send out weekly updates linking back to Sketch War. In fact, I just looked at my public profile and discovered that the Writers Guild is currently on strike. Do I use MySpace the way it's intended? I don't think so. I have a presence, but I just don't *care*. I imagine I'll either let it go fallow or delete it in the next couple of months.

Last fall I created a Facebook profile for work. Not to network, but to get a feel for what it offered and how users interacted with it. I used a fake name - a violation of the TOS so I guess they'll kick me off someday - and have been unable to change it now that I'm using the account. I keep trying, but I remain Joe Blowinski. Seriously? That's some crappy heuristics their software's got if it can't assume that's a fake name. Anyway, I have 25 "friends" on Facebook, the majority of whom are just people I'm working with on an online project. Of the rest, I've only met six in the meat world, and some of those only in passing. That's not to say I'm not close with a few of these people, but by and large they are acquaintances or past/present/potential colleagues more than friends.

Now, while so far Facebook is less annoying and irritating to me than MySpace, there are things that bug the hell out of me. Primarily, all the stupid applets. One or two make sense, and then there are the virtual drinks and virtual pets and even weirder stuff. I don't get it. I know I'm old, but what's the point of a damn (fluff)Friend? Can *anyone* explain the appeal to me?

The final sign of the impending apocalypse is that I signed up for a Twitter account. If you're not reading the RSS feed, you can glance to right and see my Twitter updates, or you can click the link in the last sentence. By all means, "follow" me. Stalk me like a wounded wildebeest. What the hell is the point of Twitter? I mean, like the rest, I've got an account. And like the rest, I don't quite get it.

I can promote my blog1 and...what? Update my friends and my "friends" as to what I'm doing? Meet people of similar interests, I guess...but I'm not sure how one does that in the 140-character confines of a Twitter message.

Alright...iff2 my followers on Twitter were all and only my friends and iff they cared what I was doing from moment to moment, I suppose it would make some small amount of sense to follow me. Easier than me texting everyone to say "I'm going to the market to buy some rutabagas now," at least. But who the hell wants me to text them that, anyway? Criminals, maybe. I guess criminals might like Twitter. It's easier to figure out when someone's house is unoccupied if the residents are faithful Twitter-ers. "Heading out to grandmas, won't be home till very late" is a great cue to break, enter, and rob blind. In ten years, it'll be a new crime. T,B&E.

As with MySpace and Facebook, I'll attempt to use Twitter to drive traffic here. Because I like traffic. As long as I'm not stuck driving in it, I like traffic. Otherwise, it seems like the least interesting and useful of all the social networking tools.

So what's the point? I don't really know. I felt like getting up on my soapbox and yelling at those damn kids to get off my lawn because the end times were nigh, or something. I need to mix in some more metaphors there. I'll work on that. Anyway, the point isn't to get you all to be my Facebook/MySpace/Twitter friends or followers. If you *know* me, or you at least are someone with whom I irregularly communicate, I'm totally cool with that. One of the regular commenters here and I are friends on Facebook. We've never met, and have only interacted a little online, but it's not like she's a complete cypher. Not like the five people I don't know who are already following me on Twitter. That's just creepy.

I guess what I'd really like to do is *understand* the point. Were I keeping in touch with old friends through these tools, I'd get it. I don't get people who have thousands of "friends". No. You don't. In fact, if you have a couple of thousand friends on a social networking site and aren't famous, you probably have *no* friends in real life. Sad, horrible fact. Sorry.

So to the point of understanding, let's have some discussion in the comments of this post. Whether you're a social networking butterfly or think those on social networks should be caught in butterfly nets, pipe in with your thoughts.

1 Yes, I know I've skipped this happy shiny place in my discussion of my online presence. We established a long time ago that
a) I'm an attention slut
b) I like to have a place that forces me to write
c) I'm good with people!!! I'm a people person!!!

2 No, really. I meant to type the two 'f's. I'm nerdy that way.


Mike Olbinski said...

I use social networks for two reasons:

1. To drive traffic to my blog

2. To see what my friends are up to

Since I really don't do much with #1, I mostly used it for #2. I have a MySpace account, but I hate MySpace for all the same reasons you mention.

But I do like Facebook and really, I don't have many "fluff" friends on it. Most of them are people I've known at one point. Family, close friends. There are fringe people that are from a MUD I still play (nerd alert), but mostly people I know in real life.

Some are blogging friends (like Joe Blowinski) so those might be "fringe" as well.

Why do I like Facebook? I think it's fun to have a central place that you can upload photos and tell people what is going on with you. I like hearing news on my friends, like who is pregnant, who is getting a new job, etc.

But I don't get Twitter either. People love it, but I don't think I would use it enough for it to make sense. I have an account there, I think 2 people follow me, but I just don't get the point.

R.A. Porter said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Mike. Honestly, I don't even consider our Facebook friendship to be too much for the simple reason that we do read each other's blogs and comment regularly. There's at least an existing relationship of sorts in place. It's the people with the thousand or more friends I have to question.

As for Twitter, I just checked and I'm one of the two following you for what it's worth. :)

I'm actually going to try giving Twitter a chance and see whether something doesn't click for me. A lot of people whose opinions on all things geeky - Wil Wheaton, Warren Ellis, Matt Fraction - are fans of the service, so I keep thinking there must be *something* there.

sme said...

I've been on myspazz for ages now - I keep in touch with random childhood friends and a few relatives on there that I would never email regularly if we weren't on myspace. I just joined up on facebook, but it's already lost it's shiny new-ness. I was pleased to find a few people I had completely lost track of, but .... meh. Now it's just something else to check in the morning along with email and everything else.
I joined Twitter a while back, but I could never get my phone hooked up, so I have about three updates, which are all really lame. Who wants to tell the world what they're doing while surfing the web? Lame-o.
Were you able to register your phone with Twitter? How do you do that? The number they tell you to send to starts with a plus sign (I may or may not be remembering this correctly), and I can't dial a damn plus sign on my phone. Or can I? AHHHHHH!

Oh yes, the boyfriend thought your sketch was hilarious too. So, yeah. Good job.

R.A. Porter said...

I was able to register my phone. Ignore the '+' sign; it's just there because it's standard in international numbers to indicate the '+' before the country code.

Enter your number and you'll get an SMS text almost immediately. Reply and you're good to go.

sme said...

nope. i tried it again and it still doesn't work. maybe it's a t-mobile thing? oh well.

Michael Brownlee said...

I only have myspace/facebook pages because friends I think are cool sent me links telling me to sign up. Otherwise, I hate them. But, since I'm a social lemming, I go where I'm told. So I'll be checking out Twitter later today.

R.A. Porter said...

We're all lemmings. We're all lemmings.

Michele / akkasha said...

I am not a lemming!

I have looked at myspace & facebook and see no good reason to join. I haven't found any reason to bother with them. I occasionally check a couple myspace pages by people who use them to notify people of events. But it is more likely I will miss the event because I forgot to check them.

I find them useless. I also hate the page designs. They make my eyes hurt! Then again, I still believe that if someone has something important to say they will email about it.

I really do think that this is just an age of information overload. There is no reason to be connected 24/7. I rarely bother to check my email when I am at home. Only three people have my direct cell phone #. And only about a dozen have the number to a PBX that will connect to my cell. I don't use my phone for web stuff. Now and again, I will use my Palm for it, but only if I find a free wifi spot.

I think the longer you are online, the less you worry about what you are 'missing'. *chuckle*