I’m beginning to resent the whole ‘social network’ movement. I joined LiveJournal so I could participate with one particular friend’s journal. Then I joined Blogger to do the same. And MySpace. And LinkedIn. And Twitter. And Gather. And Podshow. And now Facebook. Plus, I know there are more I’m not thinking of this minute. My password manager application is full of them. It’s getting ridiculous.
If you look for me on any of those services, you’ll find my content is sparse, irregular, and in most cases, never updated at all. I use the logins to keep in touch with friends scattered about the various networks and to be able to see articles posted as links in other people’s blog posts. That last bit is what prompted me to join Facebook today. A link. One stupid little link that, along with its context, invited me to read more. One click and I’m excluded by a login policy that is clearly in place to boost membership numbers. Several times in the past couple of months, as Facebook swallows more and more of the people in my RSS feeds, I’ve clicked a link, been frustrated and said ‘Aw, screw it. I don’t really need to read that article to live and I’ll be damned if I’m joining another f’in social network just to view it.’ Today I caved. Today I feel duped once again.
Isn’t the point of social networking to be social? What’s up with the gated communities? I understand that some are intended for professional usage (LinkedIn comes to mind) but most seem to be putting up more walls than they are breaking down. If I have a single friend in each network, what have I achieved? If my whole reason for joining a social network produces a core resentment of a service that limits my interaction if I resist joining, then what sort of member am I? At that point I become a number. I’m the most valuable commodity for a social network- I am a number that increases company value. I’m fattening a spreadsheet total. If you counted up active users versus the users like me who join because someone else did and you care enough to read what that person wrote about or linked to, I become nearly as valuable as the true participant should the social network court suitable buyers like Yahoo! or Google, etc. All because I’ve been guilted into another login and password.
Social networking should break down barriers, not create them and certainly shouldn’t guilt a person for not joining. If I tell friend Jane Doe that I didn’t read about her wedding because I won’t join another bloody social site, who does it hurt? Right. It hurts my relationship with Jane Doe, not SocialSiteXYZ. SocialSiteXYZ will never miss me, but I will create tension in a friendship that is potentially decades old because I didn’t sign up to SocialSiteXYZ.
There is something very wrong with that precedent.