And more begat more

Join up! They say. It’s fun, it’s cool, you can add friends, link to hundreds of people you don’t really know. And on and on. Whether it’s from the service itself, or from people using the service, the friendly, fun, “2.0” emails continue to flood my inbox.

Ignoring most I eventually pick one to try, and then it’s private messages, friend requests and a myriad of other nudges, pokes, tweaks and annoyances that . This is not the age of social interaction, nor the time of ‘community on the web’, this is the sneaky school bully, tripping you up as you walk past, leaving notes stuck to your back. Of course he never gets caught, he’s far to sly for that, but he’s always there needling away.

And so it is with some of the current crop of social or “Web 2.0” services. They are deplorably sneaky, sucking you in, enticing you with the promise of… well, what exactly? Are they preying on our insecurities, and offering pseudo-popularity that is based on the quantity of people you have in your list of “friends”. Or are we to believe that use of such everyday terms is pure chance? In saying that, it’s probably pure laziness that led to that decision, after all, what IS the collective term for “a group of people I know online” Webuddies, perhaps?

Presuming you fall for their charms (don’t feel bad, I did too), you’ll soon be peppered with even MORE spam (bacn?) from all those other poor saps that are desperate to be popular, desperate to be cool and hip and ahead of the curve (don’t feel bad, I do too). Of course there is no chance of any web service making you cool, no, not even blogging. I can say this safe in the knowledge that, despite several rather desperate attempts at such, I have resolutely failed to be cool at any point in my existence and have since given up any aspirations in that direction (don’t feel bad, I really don’t give a stuff, honest).

And here’s the thing. Once you have signed up to one of these ‘social services’, the more people you add, the more stuff you have to cope with, the more stuff you have to accept, delete and ignore. And on and on it goes, like some weird but friendly marshmallow that slowly engulfs you, lulling you with soft, sweet, deliciousness until you realise, a moment too late, that you are about to suffocate.

Of course such websites.. sorry “services”, love it. The more users they can attract, the higher their profit, the more users, the more interactions, the more invites, the more users, the higher the profits. And on and on. Some people have said this is the viral nature of the web, to which I ponder, what’s the cure? Where is the antidote? At what point does it stop?

When I opt out of course.

I ditched Facebook a few weeks ago, I don’t pownce on anything, and have no desire to be in bebo. My space is mine alone, and I’ll stumble upon where I like.

I will continue to use LinkedIn for the purpose of having a professional directory (links), and Twitter remains an amusing diversion into which I dip when a micro-distraction is required, but I know that that too, over time, will fade.

For me, sites like LinkedIn serve a purpose. The deluge of other sites seem to be useful but ultimately, are they? What do they do for you? And by that I mean what service do they REALLY provide, what value do they hold in your online life?

Don’t feel bad if you’ve sent me an invite that has been ignored, if you’ve tried to interact with me on any of the sites mentioned above, and more. This isn’t a dig at anyone just a reaction on my part, or more a realisation that, from here on, I’ll go looking for solutions to my problems, rather than reacting to the buzz.

15 comments

  1. I only joined Facebook a few weeks ago…and ditched it after a couple of weeks. Maybe I’m getting old but I’ve got better things to do than sending werewolves off to fight friends, getting turned into a vampire and taking movie quiz’s and comparing results.

    I’ve really ramped back on web 2 services that I was signed up to. Too much noise, too many of them offering similar things and a bit of paranoia after my bank account was defrauded that there was too much of the real me out on the web.

    I guess what shows the lack of value from many of these sites is that I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything.

  2. You know I think Facebook is as useful as LinkedIn.

    Or it was till they opened their platform up. Well they opened their database up and corrupted it’s value largely. I think the execution of this has been poor.

    So Facebook becomes an online playground (a web version of Second Life if one will) instead of a useful tool for managing relationships between people. But many people want the playground and not the tool, and if I’m quite honest, I can’t blame them. Who wouldn’t want a jungle gym over a hammer and block of wood.

    I think their is a lot of value in social sites. Or their can be. Execution plays a large role in this, as does, the site doing for you what you want it to do. Which in you case it doesn’t, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t for everyone. I hate the bleeding eye mess that myspace is. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value, just not for me.

  3. “Twitter remains an amusing diversion”

    So exactly what is it about me that stops you adding me to the list of people who can view your twittering?

  4. I’ve done a spell that means very bad things will happen to anyone else who attempts to make me join in this mad popularity contest. I am utterly convinced that when you get an email invitiation from someone on one of thses services, the addresses are sold on to spammers (who’d probably prefer I called them marketing departments).

    I don’t have enough time to spend with the people I know and value in real life, so I’m certainly not going to spend the time I do have interacting mindlessly in virtuality with people I’d probably not want to pass the time of day with if I met them face-to-face!

    I’ve had a spate of people I know professionally sending me invites to little web-based interest groups they’ve set up – apparently to make it easier for us to communicate with each other. If I want to speak to them, I’ll pick up the phone or send an email…

    I must be old or something.

  5. BW, FWIW, I’ve never got a spam from FB or their marketing department, that wasn’t sent by a friend.

    Facebook only is a popularity contest if you want it to be. Or if you perceive it to be. The great thing about social software is it is to you what you want it to be.

    I don’t have enough time to spend with people I know and value. I don’t draw the distinction between real life and online since I count Gordon as ‘online’ and a friend and that makes it no less real life. However facebook does make it easy to organise and co-ordinate events, and then easy to spend more valuable time with friends. Plus it keeps random time based (i.e. after the email is sent very little value in storing it) emails out of my inbox which makes emails more easy to manage.

    And web based interest groups work better where everyone’s input is consolidated as a group in one location and than spread across emails and phone calls.

  6. With BW here. I consider every moment spent looking at this screen I’m currently facing as one I would rather spend in real life conversation. This makes it difficult for me to inhabit blogworld, which was the first (and to my mind still the only necessary) “cyber” network. The internet is having a ruinous effect on human relations – but sadly the young know no better.

    Not to differentiate between “online” and “real life” friends is to my mind laughable. Sorry.

  7. But Peter isn’t their some sort of hypocrisy or irony in saying that when commenting on someone elses blog?

    What facebook is to someone a blog is to someone else. There’s no real difference they are just different tools. They all are part of the online social interactions that now exist.

    And I would counter like any technology (which every generation has considered ruinous on the human race), it is what you make of it. If you think the internet is ruinous, I’d have to ask what the hell are you doing here?

    In two months I’m staying in NY with Stuart Autoblography. Not for the first time. I have been to Bernard Uborka’s first birthday party.

    These people are my friends. Differentiating between “online” and “real life” is like differentiating between people “I met in a bar” and “people I met somewhere else”. The only difference is that Gordon lives in Silly Scotland, and I haven’t been able to get him to buy that drink he owes me.

  8. Many companies are now looking at web2.0 and abstractions such as second life and actually building business models on them.

    Furthermore as we dive into this new technology world where everything in linked, one application is aware of anothers data you get the feeling we have been here before…

    BABEL anyone….

    Im in the I.T ‘Sphere’ but even I doubt the value these applications have and how to market them as anything other than junk data…welll I still dont know…

    Bad tech : Facebook (Cant sell it, has stuff, who cares)

    Good Tech : VMWare is also software but serves a real business purpose, can see many uses for it that save money now.

    Your thoughts?

  9. “The internet is having a ruinous effect on human relations.”

    Crap! The internet opens up opportunities and breaks down geographical and physical barriers. It’s forcing people to redefine concepts of friendship and community.

    I spent five years working in a company with people, whom, on the whole, I couldn’t stand. Three or four of them I stayed in touch with and the others I couldn’t care less about. I go out drinking in my local and will socialise with people who I have nothing in common with. Sure it’s great on the odd occasion and we have a laugh but they’re not people I could spend every evening talking to or chat mindlessly about stuff that I’m interested in.

    The people I can do that don’t live near me. I’ve moved around a lot – I’ve made some very good friends but these days I see them less than I’d like. We still speak on the phone but then again, our relationship isn’t all about the talking. We still email each other too but sometimes it’s just nonsense. Something like Facebook lets me see that my best mate (who lives 300 miles away) might have gone to see a film last night and get us into a chat
    about it – it’s the type of “conversation” we’d have if we worked together or saw each other every day but not something we’d necessarily ring each other up about or send specific emails.

    It’s not just that – I can get into the same type of discussion, albeit in electronic form – about the pictures of someones holiday or new baby or whatever with them and our mutual friends as we would if they brought the pictures into the office despite the fact that they live 2000 miles away and none of us work together any longer.

    I understand why people get annoyed at the frivolity of applications like Facebook but it’s just a tool. If you enjoy that, it’s there for you – if not, no-one’s forcing you to use it. Don’t want all the “spam”? Turn the notifications off! It’s not a tool for everybody but for some people it’s a very useful tool.

  10. I’ve never been drawn to these sites, although I’ve read a lot about them in women’s magazines. I like my blog and the interaction I have with readers, but I’m happy to draw the line there. I’m tempted to make a joke about real life poking at this stage, but will refrain…

  11. I know what you mean, it’s very silly to think of Facebook as a popularity contest. But I’ve got in touch with a few long lost buddies through it, so can’t complain really.

  12. Buy as much 2.0, 2.1,3.7,11.x as you want… It does NOT make money, and is NOT suitable for enterprise use end of story….

    Its simply guff, which cannot be upgraded to the next big thing, just ask anyone who has used ruby on rails.

    2.0 is the smell of people running out of ideas…

    Mashups, Blogs, Wikis yep go get one 2% make it 98% fail why?… Content and there is no content 2.0… Your supposed to add content to these things…

    Better taxonomy, search, integration and more open content formats now we can use them…. to find CONTENT….

    There is no spoon….

  13. In Spain, so I´ll be brief.

    Dragon – the reason I haven´t added you to my Twitter friends is because you must be listed under some other name, I see no Dragon! Tell me who you are!

    As for “real vs internet” – I´d throw any meeting between bloggers into the ring. I´ve met, and got to know some wonderful people who I would NEVER had had the opporchancity to were it not for t´internet.

    The internet (to pull on the Long Tail a little) allows us to find other people within our niche, rather than having to interact with people we don´t like or have nothing in common with. Not exclusively, as that would be truly bad, but it has more advantages than not. I think.

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