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.