I have social networking fatigue and I have had it for years.
I jumped on my first alt.music board/list in 1994 and have been full bore ahead on mailing lists, alt.music, bulletin boards, message boards, groups, friendster, myspace, flickr, twitter, facebook, jaiku, ad finitum, ad nauseum ever since. Fifteen years later, I alternately love the online spaces that allow me to really connect and be fed by others, and I am overwhelmed by the ones that sap my attention and energy.
I hate chat/IM/AIM and text/sms is not far behind in my book, as they both demand that one reply immediately and in a shallow fashion. I really do prefer asynchronous communication in which I can take the time to reply in depth if necessary to instant now chat. I prefer to be able to check in on [insert name of service] when I have the time and post / reply at my leisure. It is for this same reason that I only pick up about half of the phone calls I receive. As a bouncy adult who is easily distracted, I have learned that I need to think before I respond.
As a creative who has had her own consultancy / freelance web design & development business since August of 2000, I have learned that if I want to be a good little citizen and pay my bills on time I really need to focus on the task(s) at hand when I am working.
While continuous partial attention may be a great catch phrase for the current cultural zeitgeist, if I practice it at any length it will toss me out of my house and I will be living in my car. My car, while wonderful, does not have a comfy bed & a hot shower. Thus, I need to focus and concentrate on work and the online leisure activities that feed my life and soul – like blogging, researching, creating, and communicating in a constructive manner.
Ok, so that is my explanation for preferring email & phone calls and avoiding chat & texting. Now let’s talk about social networks….
In “Web 1.0” most all of the social services had built in latency and an assumption of asynchronous communication, be it email, message boards, usenet, what have you. All of these services allowed one to log in when one could and to reply or join the conversation when you could. Yes, there was chat rooms and IM; yes, some folks spent all day and night on their computers and replied immediately to all communication. But there was not the pressure to always be there present.
Over the last decade there has been continuous cultural expectation to always be on or connected. In “Web 2.0” or the recent phase of the web since 2003, the there has been an ever increasing avalanche of social web sites and web applications that allow one to “Connect” with one’s friends. I don’t know about you, but I have found as the years have progressed, that clumps of my friends migrate to certain services and not all of them can be found on one. Yes, not even Facebook.
In the last few years, I have spent most of my “social networking” time on Twitter, Flickr, and Jaiku, even though very few of my in person, local friends are on these services. Most of my friends on these social networking sites have been a smattering of SoCal folk that I know in person, a whole lot of interesting creative folk I have met at conferences or through traveling, and / or folks who are just plain interesting and thus I “friend” them.
Now back in the old days, pre-internet, when I was very active in the LA music scene, I had a ranking for “friends”:
1) see you in passing, recognize you face, don’t know your name
2) acquaintance: know your name, you may know mine, we may have chatted at a show or a party
3) friend: I like you, you like me, I know your phone number, you know mine, we make plans on occasion to see each other
4) good friend: I make sure you are invited to my parties and/or we make plans to meet up at least once every few weeks.
In internet and social networking worlds, this breakdown is not much different. And when I talk to friends, most of the folks I know attempt to manage their social networking experiences by only “friending” folks who they have met in person or that they call their friend (according to my rubric above). I tend to “friend” not just my in person friends, but also social and professional acquaintances, as well as folks I know in passing, as well as folks who come recommended to me by the above folk even if I have not met them.
The upswing is that I get overwhelmed in trying to keep up with all the networks and feeds for these folks, but I don’t want to limit myself to just met in person friends as some of the best blogs and tweets to read are by friends of friends of friends. And I like meeting new people and reading / hearing new ideas.
Ok, when I first joined MySpace back in the dawn of time , I only knew folks from the SoCal music scene on MySpace which was great and a lot of fun, esp. all my friends from Punk Rock Bowling, Barflies.net, and Alex’s Bar. But over time, I got very frustrated by how closed the MySpace environment was – if you friended someone who may only be someone you knew in passing from the music scene or was a friend of a friend and you needed to get ahold of them in real life… you were screwed. You could use MySpace messaging or the chat or… and be sucked in to the MySpace closed box even further. In 2005, when NewsCorp bought MySpace, I made my plans to cancel my account and I did.
I did it because I hated how perfectly intelligent people forgot how to use the whole of the open internet and confined themselves willingly to one really crappy small corner of said internet. Secondly, I didn’t want to be data mined for marketing purposes by the same empire that owned FOX News. As a result, I left multiple hundreds of folks and went on my merry way.
I know, I am a cranky open web proponent. Why, yes, I am.
Right around the time I was tossing MySpace in the bin and attending graduate school, services such as Facebook and Beebo were growing in popularity. At some point I made an account at both and within the week unsubscribed from Beebo. Facebook at first was only web professional friends that I already saw / heard from daily on Twitter or Flickr. As time went by, I noticed that my ultra-smart internet professional friends started to dumb down in the closed blue & white box of Facebook and I deactivated my account as to not lose respect for otherwise amazing people. In the three plus years since, I have happily lived my social networking life on Twitter and Flickr, and more recently on Jaiku.
Until last week. My Nokia Open Lab friend, Steve Lawson was in town for the NAMM conference and I attended two events that he and Lobelia hosted/played at/spoke at. While I listened to Steve passionately talk about the power of SOCIAL NETWORKING, I realized that I have internalized to the point of thinking it was normal all the information that others were paying him to tell them. By the end of the second event, I was feeling convicted when Steve suggested that I do some social networking consulting in Orange County.
Me, deer in the social networking headlights. BAP!
Honestly, I did reactivate my Facebook account just before attending the Nokia Open Lab, but that was only to participate in the resources posted on the NOL group. Then, horrors of all horrors…. [cue the soundtrack from Jaws] …. I was found again on Facebook, not just by my web design & dev friends but by a wide variety of folk from my junior high, high school, and college years. Then I felt trapped.
Deer in Headlights! WHOMP!
The good part to getting plowed down by the Facebook 18 wheeler is that I was able to find some dear friends that I thought I have lost to the mists of time and their completely avoiding any trace of themselves on the internet when I attempted to find them via a Google Search. This is excellent. But like many of the all-inclusive closed sandbox internet resorts, Facebook leads folk into thinking that one should always be connected. And on. And on Facebook, available for chat, or receiving of Lil Green Plants or some other sort of thing. When I win the lottery, maybe, but most likely not.
Cue back to Steve Lawson. I went home from the lovely inauguration party / house concert that Kerry Getz threw and decided that I should not let all my different social groups be so spread out over different services nor should I lose contact with friends and acquaintances because of my crankiness, but I should try to find them all on Facebook. At least find as many of the folk from each social scene that I am involved with as possible before the end of January. LA music scene, Punk Rock Bowling crew, college friends (Scripps, Biola, Boston U, and Trinity), professional friends, cool web folk, and other folks I have met in person over the years (like my favorite crush from 1993 – Dominic Green, who is now – sadly – married).
I started by bizarre quest/challenge to make Facebook less odious and more like a mildly comfy blue and white internet jail on January 21st and gave myself 10 days to find all my acquaintances, friends, and good friends by January 31st (I still have 3 days to go). Given that lots of folk are not on Facebook or are like me and have all their notifications turned off, I set my goal at 500 friends by the end of this month. I started at 150 something and by this morning I had reached 530 friends.
I would only let myself start on this odd quest after 10pm and then I would either search for a name or through current friend’s friend lists. I made myself stick to the rule that I could only request to be friends on Facebook with folks I actually had met in person at least 2x and had a real conversation with at least once. I did break off this rule about 5 times for really good looking single men who are friends of friends. O.o
As more and more wildly diverse friends accepted my requests, Facebook got more fun. It was nice to see that many of my Punk Rock Bowling friends have joined Facebook in the last few months and are putting up fun updates and photos. It is fun to see photos from folks from junior high school and be blown away by how REALLY freaking naturally blonde all those folks were. Yikes.
Note to self, never grow up in Newport Beach again.
I do have a warning up on my Profile page to let folks know that I have all my notifications turned off and that they should check my blog or email me at my real email address and not on Facebook. But it is good to see / find Joe Andranian, Naomi Love, Warren Renfrow, Jezebel, and many others online. And bless them, they have all been kind enough to put their real email address on their profile page so I can find them off Facebook when I need to.
Like to invite them to a BBQ in person. In real life.
Maybe it is time to start an LA/LB/OC version of London’s Social Network Tuttle Club, or just revive the monthly Geek BBQs I used to throw. Are you up for it?