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?