Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Asocial media

This should be bloody obvious, but not everything needs to be a “social network”. The Internet Age has become the Facebook Age, where we’re all expected to share everything with everyone all the time.

I know this probably makes me a curmudgeon, but quite frankly there are times I’d really rather not share with my “friends” what I’m reading, watching, listening to or doing. But the demands that I do so are growing more insistent and omnipresent, even if I want to do something simple.

For example, a favourite blogger has been posting the PDFs of the various rulings and motions in California’s Proposition 8 case to Scribd, a site which is supposed to allow users to “Publish your documents quickly and easily.” Trouble is, to download a document one must create an account with them or log-in through Facebook (readers may recall that, amid all the privacy concerns, I shut off all third-party access to my Facebook account). According to Scribd, of course you want to “Discover and connect with people of similar interests.” Um, I can do that on dozens of social networks—just give me the document!

Of course I could search for the relevant court sites myself (and I found the official links in a few seconds), but as a reader I resent a blogger forcing me to do that if I don’t want to use “social networking” to get a public document.

The point here isn’t the blogger’s faux pas, my laziness or even Scribd itself. I simply don’t want another damn social network! There are too many going now, all of them standing alone on the windswept plains of the Internet, interconnecting rarely and weakly. How many log-ins and passwords can one person be expected to remember? I don’t—I write them down. Sue me.

Lately I’ve been feeling increasingly hostile toward “social networks”. I think it was a game that started it: I play Qrank, a trivia game, on my iPod Touch. I like trivia games, and I often do well at them. I used to do well at Qrank, too—until I started playing against folks I’m connected to on various social networks. My scores dropped. Aware I’m ranked against people I actually interact with, I answer a question as fast as I can (the point values decrease the longer you take to answer). Naturally, I often answer too quickly and select the wrong answer.

So, the “social network” aspect of it took the fun out of the game (I’m probably going to delete it altogether soon; I could just “unfriend” everyone, but these networks have trained me to feel bad about doing that). With Scribd, it was being forced to take part in a yet another social network to get a public document.

Enough is enough. Just because something can be done through a social network doesn’t mean it should be. Just because we can share all our intimate details—from what we had for breakfast to how our last bowel movement was—doesn’t mean we should. Sometimes the Internet should just be the Internet, and not endless social networks.


Roger Owen Green said...

i do hat i want on social media; might tweet thrice in an hour then not at all for three days. i don't play any games such as Farmville, and rarely quizzes anymore, mostly a function of time.
I found the Prop 8 case by myself too; don't need no stinkin' FB to get it. (That was paraphrased from a movie.)

Nik said...

Amen, brother -- I think "social overload" is definitely a thing to worry about. I stick to facebook as my main thing and that's about it. I won't Tweet, I blog once a week or so, and all other social networks don't really do it for me.

Daniel said...

This post makes me sad on several levels.

Partly because of the inherent contradiction of not wanting multiple logins while simultaneously belittling the option to log in with an existing one; and partly because of the broad brush you have chosen to paint with.

The socialization of the web is a very natural extension of how we process information in the real world. There is a reason why the adage "word of mouth is the best advertisement" is true - we are social creatures and as such are enormously influenced by our peers.

Pointing out a few instances of applications that have implemented social-networking poorly neither invalidates its usefulness nor causes it to be less frequently adopted.

It almost feels like you have fallen victim to the idea that if a site contains a field for a piece of information that you must supply it. My facebook page does not contain my address or phone number - in fact all of the information that I supplied can readily be found in the phone book or with simple Google searches. Therefore it is impossible for my privacy to be breached on facebook, because they do not have any information that I consider to be private.

I'm rambling and I apologize for that. I guess I am just bitter and disappointed in your stance as I like to think that you are not a McStance kind of guy.