What is up with the weekly onslaught of new and unheard of social Internet networks? It’s like every week somebody wakes up, and thinks, We are not connected enough on the Internet. We need a new network that everybody can sign up on and send invites to every damn person on all their other infinite networks!
I realize that I am old and not necessarily the target audience for many of these new ventures. It’s just that when I get all these invites from multiple people to join the newest and most popular thing, I want to know whether I must succumb or if I can just ignore it, which is pretty much what I’ve done with most of it.
A few years back, I made the plunge and joined Facebook. For those of you over forty, it had emerged as the VHS to My Space’s Betamax. In the Darwinian world of the Internet, it won.
Then came Twitter. It was different. It wasn’t a social network as such. It was more of a broadcast subscription service. It was perfect for people like me, the guy who likes to sit in back row and toss out snarky commentary on everything. You follow those you want to listen to, and people follow you if they want to listen to you. But I tied my Twitter to Facebook, so all my Tweets go directly to Facebook, too. Thus, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between them.
Then came Linkedin. This one came out of the blue. It was never explained to me; I had never read anything about it; it just showed up in my email inbox one day. By looking at it, it seemed like a less cool, IBM’d business version of Facebook. It is supposed to be a “networking tool,” I guess—though I have never known anyone who has actually networked on it. It’s sort of like a bunch of name-badge-wearing business types standing around the sweet roll table during the break of a conference of some kind—only they are from a variety of different jobs and industries. I guess it could be used to network. But serious business types whom I know roll their eyes at people who try to do actual business on Linkedin. Nevertheless, I signed up. It felt rude to ignore all the invitation emails I started to receive. Only problem is, some connect to me through my work email and some through my personal email, so, it seems like I have two accounts. This confuses me and make me feel 85 years old. It’s dark and cold out, and I’m tired!
A couple weeks ago, I got my first email for something called SchoolFeed. My first thought, seriously, was that it was some kind of charity that fed hungry children. Silly me. No, it’s yet another social network for… people who went to your schools… or any school, since I now seem to be getting invites from people I never went to school with. How is this different from Facebook? Not sure, since all the people asking me to connect on SchoolFeed are already “friends” of mine on Facebook. SchoolFeed tries to look like some kind of yearbook. Only I’m not in school, and I really don’t want to go back to school, thank you, very much. Again, what does this provide that Facebook doesn’t? ‘Splain it to me.
Then, I got an invite to join Branch Out. I have no idea what this is. By this time, I was officially freaking out at all these things. It’s becoming like a steady stream of Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door. Wanna join this? How ‘bout this? Wanna join this? I’m inviting you to join; why didn’t you join? Remember me? We were in Cub Scouts together. Won’t you join? Don’t you wanna join? Don’t you wanna? Don’t you wanna? Don’t you wanna? Why aren’t you joining?
Yes, I now know that Branch Out is a Facebook version of Linkedin. I don’t care. I know that there’s also BeKnown, Visible.me, and Mixtent lurking out there somewhere. And that’s just this week. Internet wars will sort things out a bit. Linkedin is already pissed at BeKnown. But I’m pretty sure that, like a Hydra, seven more will pop up next week.
Here’s the thing. I don’t know how I’m supposed to use any of these things. There are times when I’m ready to chuck Facebook out the window. How many of these things are there? Just let me know so I can be ready. Are there going to be ten more? Twenty? Four hundred and thirteen? How many more random networks are going to be bugging me to sign up and invite all my friends? And here’s a concept. When they make these invites, why not include a paragraph explaining what in the hell this new thing actually does and why one should join! It’s just a thought.
I feel rude when I ignore these thoughtful email invites, until I remember that they probably didn’t take much more thought than checking the boxes of everyone they’ve ever known as they signed up to this exciting new network/service/waste-of-time.
Hey Internet, this is fair warning. I’m this close to tossing all of it out the window. I’m this close to going to the stationary store to buy a pen and note paper to do all my future correspondence. I’m this close to going all Jane Austen on everybody’s asses by actually visiting with real people in the parlor instead of spending two hours electronically posting crap. I’m this close to… aw, look, a kitten video on YouTube!
I don’t know where this is going. I just know that there are days when I wake up and feel like Steve Jobs, ready to make the most of the amazing gadgets and resources that change our lives every day. But then there are days — more and more, it seems — when I wake up longing for a simpler time of barn raisings, quiltings, rumspringas. and chin-strap beards. I’m just sayin’… (Or, as the Amish say, “I’m merely conveying to thee…”)