Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Muddy Mess of Myspace, The Fallacy of Facebook

I am not a huge fan of social networking sites. Or maybe I’m just too old for them. But it seems like when you first join one, everybody wants to be your friend, including people you’ve never even heard of before. You are bombarded with e-mails and requests to be included on their growing list of global contacts. Then once you get acclimated with the system, and finally learn how to navigate yourself through the various features and applications, you suddenly realize that none of the people who begged you to be their friend has bothered to communicate with you since. In fact, once you added them to your list, you never heard from them again.

And just to be clear, when I refer to social networking sites, I am not including any of the sites that connect you with other bloggers, like Entrecard, Blogcatalog or MyBlogLog. To me, these serve a different purpose, and though they lead to great networking and social opportunities, their main purpose is to connect you with other bloggers of a similar interest. To share your thoughts, ideas, etc. And not necessarily to become the most popular person on the planet. (IMHO)

The first networking site I joined was MySpace. Not because I really cared about having a space of my own, but more because I wanted to use the networking capabilities to help promote my book. So I set up a meager looking page, with links to my other websites and a couple of pictures. Nothing fancy, but enough to make it appear like I put in an effort. Then I began joining all the various social groups I thought sounded interesting, and began posting items on the bulletin boards. And lo and behold, I began getting requests to be my friend. And from people all over the world.

But after a few months of this, I didn’t really feel like MySpace was doing much. Sure, I had a bunch of “friends,” but it wasn’t like I could call them out on a Friday night and ask them to go out for drinks. I also didn’t feel comfortable contacting other people in the network and asking them to be my friend. What if they said no? That would be humiliating. I mean, it’s bad enough when someone tells you to your face they don’t want to be your friend, but when someone you don’t even know doesn’t even want to add you to their roster of thousands, than it might make you feel even more insignificant than you did before. I’ve never been aggressive when it comes to socializing. And even though this was the easiest form of friendship you could have (no strings, no obligations), I still felt uncomfortable reaching out to anyone. Luckily, there were others who didn’t have this qualm, and I was soon swept away with numerous messages and requests to be friends.

But while browsing through other people’s MySpace pages, I couldn’t get over what a mess they were, and how confusing it was to find any kind of information. There were postings and videos and photos and comments and advertisements and so much crap stuffed into every corner of the area that I felt like I was looking at someone’s vomit. There was no sense of graphic design, although there were certainly plenty of graphic elements. So much so that sometimes I couldn’t even load someone’s Myspace page…it just took too long. So after a while, I lost interest in MySpace. Because to me it began to look like Filene’s Basement---everything thrown haphazardly on tables and racks, forcing you to pick through the junk in order to find that one piece of gold. To me, it was just not worth the effort.

Then, at the insistence of some friends, I joined Facebook. Originally, I’d thought this site was only for teenagers and twentysomethings. But apparently it had expanded its reach, and now the entire world was on Facebook. And once again, I began getting requests from people to become their Facebook friend. Only this time, it was from people I actually knew. Which was definitely different, although the results still appeared to be the same. Once I’d accepted them as my friend, I rarely heard from them again. And because I’m constantly busy with my blog, or my videos, or my actual job, I don’t really have time to throw myself whole-heartedly into another creative venture. Especially one that allows you to kidnap people, send fake presents, join bogus groups, and all kinds of other cyber activity that could easily take up all your time, energy and focus.

One of my friends is so obsessed with Facebook that he gets upset whenever he doesn’t get any kind of response to the postings he puts up on his wall. Or if he writes something on someone else’s wall and they don’t respond, he immediately questions whether they’re really his friend or not. “Why do they want to be my friend if they never want to talk to me?” He asked me one day. “I mean, what’s the point?” Especially when anything you write on your wall can be viewed by everyone on your friends list…and then their friends and family can see what you’re up to as well…in fact, the potential for people you never knew to learn a lot about you has increased tenfold because of the way Facebook is set up. And to see the amount of content people dump on their pages is incredible. Photos and stories and secrets and so much information about who they are, what they like, where they go and how they feel, it makes me wonder where it all will lead.

I mean, what if social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace were really part of some top secret plan by the U.S. Government to form a kind of elaborate Big Brother network?. That way, if they ever need to find a photo of you, or learn who your friends are or what kind of lifestyle you lead, they only need to look at your social networking pages and read your profile. And what’s more, they didn’t even have to do any of the hard investigative work, because you’ve already done their job for them—just by keeping your Myspace up to date, you have provided them with all the background info on you they need. You think I’m being paranoid? Probably.

But that’s just me. What’s your feeling about social networking sites?

9 comments:

Amy Lilley Designs said...

Hey Henson..like you, I'm not a 20 something and I too have a 'Facebook'...it comes in handy for some things, like the IM'ing feature, but I think that we are older and wiser enough to be selective about what we're posting. I think my local Walgreen's has more info on me than Facebook...lol

Lidian said...

I agree with you entirely. The Filene's Basement analogy made me laugh - that's exactly right! I remember trying to shop there, it was a nightmare. I preferred Morgie's up in Somerville, actually.

desperateblogger said...

i'm in friendster and multiply. my contacts are actually real friends and relatives. it's a great way to get updated - i even get updated regarding my kids' scheds and whatnots through multiply - and that is with them all living in my house.

The Fitness Diva said...

I've never really felt that drawn into the whole MySpace movement, myself. Just looks like a whole bunch of people crying out for attention. It's nothing more than an "oooh, look at ME!" page of nonsense.
I started a MySpace page after a couple years of the hype, for promoting my websites, of course, and then quickly got over it. There's now a blog post on my MySpace page (which I haven't visited in about a year, now) that clearly states "you won't ever find me over here. Really want to talk to or know me? Come check out my blog...." And then my URL.

I joined Facebook for the same reasons as you, and now have a woman on there stalking me almost daily.
She's sent me a thousand tickles, nudges, "do you think I'm hot's", hugs, cute cuddly cards with teddy bear and angel graphics, vampire bites, etc, etc, and she won't stay the hell off my Fun Wall. I never answer ANY of her little messages, but that doesn't deter her one bit! I now hardly ever sign in over there.

For those who take it so seriously, I just don't get it! If someone could explain to me clearly what all the fuss is about with being on Facebook, maybe I might....
Until then, those of you who do, please don't use Facebook for stalking people. SO not nice! ;)

Patricia said...

I just joined Facebook recently because a friend did and said it was more amenable for seniors like myself. However, when I checked blogs for "seniors" I found mostly "high school seniors"! So I checked "senior citizens" and found groups of young people who hate senior citizens. Mostly, I use it to interact with actual friends and relatives.

Matthew S. Urdan said...

My God, you're right! Facebook and MySpace--Big Brother. No wonder those that "invented" them have become so rich. They're government backed! I knew that employers already looked for facebook and myspace info prior to hiring someone, but the Big Brother connection....it makes sense. Especially in this Presidential Election Cycle--have you seen the websites of McCain and Obama? And Hillary and the others...all adding friends! And then there's John McCain....every speech of his begins with: "My Friends..."

It's a conspiracy. It's gotta be. No wonder the media hasn't picked up this angle yet. As we all know, they're being controlled by the Obama camp.

And then there's Blogger--God love 'em. Blogger doesn't have friends. Blogger has "Followers." I think the Follower feature of Blogger is more insidious than a Myspace or Facebook Friend. A friend is someone you like or have a few things in common with or who will go out for a drink with you or attend your Bar Mitzvah. A "Follower" is more like a disciple, perhaps in the John Jones sense. Disciples can be made to do things--like blow up airports. I'd really be cautious about that blogger Follower thing...It's almost like creating your own gang, your own version of the Mafia, your own cult.

But all this aside, I just have one important question for you...

Will you be my friend?

Karen & Gerard Zemek said...

I agree with you. At first when I joined My Space, I liked participating in all the discussion forums and I did make some contacts with whom I kept in touch with as "friends." I started only to promote my book as well and don't think it was very effective.

I knew real friends who were on Facebook so I joined there as well, but I seldom take any initiative. I'll answer comments if people contact me and on occasion I have written on friends' walls but don't spend much time on it.

A friend of mine got me to play a game which took up way too much of my time so I quit that application and I had a pet on there for awhile too, but felt bad because I didn't visit the site every day to "feed or play" with it so I took that off too.

I'm just on the computer enough with blogging and Shelfari which is a social site for readers which I do enjoy. I like playing video games on pogo too so don't really go on My Space or Facebook much anymore.

Henson Ray said...

amy lilley--Maybe you're right. Since I do a blog, I don't feel the need to keep my Facebook up to date with every little detail. Nor do I necessarily want everyone to see all my pictures and other junk.

lidian--Never been to Morgie's...will have to check it out...just as long as I don't have to paw through anything...

desperateblogger--Never heard of multiply...sounds like you use them for a specific purpose, which obviously works for you. So I'm glad someone found a way to make it worthwhile.

the fitness diva---YIKES. You have a stalker? That sucks. Sorry to hear that. But yeah, I think some people use the virtual anonymity of these sites to do some pretty weird stuff. Hope they eventually get bored from you ignoring them, and go away.

patricia--I got a chuckle over the various use of the term "senior." Like you, I would never assume it meant senior in High School. Shows how much we know...heh, heh...

matt--I was under the impression I was already your friend. heh, heh. But of course, Matt. I found your Blogger analogy quite interesting... and a little scary.

Karen & Gerard Zemek--I really don't get all the weird games and applications on Facebook. Just seems like a bunch of stuff to really waste your time. And I have too much to do to put any effort or energy into that.

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Of course you were already my friend....but you're not on my facebook wall. Of course, neither is anyone else since I don't have one.

Yeah, blogger followers....very scary.

Cheers!