A Rant and a Rave: Social Networks

Social networks are not for me. I can't justify the time and energy spent to connect with and update the many (in some cases, hundreds of) "friends" one accumulates on the Facebooks/Friendsters/MySpaces of the world. Call me lazy. Call me a hater. But if you're my friend, you know my phone number. You know my email address. If you want to invite me to a party, call me. Email me. IM/Chat/Skype me. Hell, Evite me if you must. Mass Facebook invites sort of scream, "I'm having a party and I couldn't give a rats ass who shows up so I'm going to ask every rando I ever met/heard of/haven't seen in 15+ years to make sure the party is bumpin'." That's not particularly inviting. That doesn't make me feel good. Same with photos. If you are my friend and we have exchanged email addresses (albeit an old-school mode of communiqué) then you will likely receive links to my Picasa albums when I've added something that is either directly relevant to you or that you might find interesting for a particular reason. I don't need an arsenal of non-friends checking out my weekend pics, only to forward their unsolicited (and usually irrelevant) comments. That doesn't make me feel good either. That makes me feel slightly violated. Conversely, were I to take advantage of these networks and access the pages and pages of friends-of-friends-of-friends photos, I would probably feel compelled to forward/comment/discuss/judge, then looks who's the stalkerish one now? No thank you. I'll stick to perusing the artsy endeavors of complete strangers on Flickr. They're probably more talented anyway.

This is not to say I can't recognize the merits of these digital communities. True, I'm not entirely comfortable with the fact that someone could theoretically learn volumes before ever meeting me. The Internet has fundamentally altered the dynamic of many first encounters. (ie: a first date used to be a sort of get-to-know-you, first interview type of situation - now, your date probably knows your birthday, favorite foods, pet peeves and relationship history before arriving at your doorstep, leaving you two with a mountain of preconceived notions and not much to learn after all.) But kudos to the clever folk who figured out that zillions of people do want to broadcast their party pics, reconnect with long lost friends and micro-blog their little hearts out to all 416 of their closest acquaintances. That was quite a discovery.

To hear from someone who shares my opinion, check out Jennifer DeLeo's piece, The 10 Most Absurd Social Networks in PC Magazine.