In a sense, I’ve probably been using social networks for as long as I’ve been on the internet. Since I first joined AOL in 1993 and found myself hanging out in their chat rooms, I’ve been using computers and the internet to interact with communities. Just for my own sake, and yours if you find this sort of thing interesting, I thought I’d go over what does and doesn’t work for me in the current environment.
This post clocked in at 2,500 words and it wasn’t 2,500 words worth of interesting. Here’s the TL/DR and I’ll pare it down to the more useful stuff.
Facebook: Hate it but kind of have to use it.
Google+: Dislike it but liked the community.
Twitter: Like it and use it a lot, which surprises me.
MySpace: Weird but intriguing
LinkedIn: *sigh* Shouldn’t try to be a social network
World of Warcraft: Mediocre game, good network
WordPress + RSS: The content I want, but kind of at arm’s length
The problem with both Facebook and Google+ of them is that they’re essentially marketing plays. They’re efforts to get you to reveal as much about yourself and your friends as possible. Facebook is refreshingly open about this. They don’t have any “don’t be evil” signs; they seem to be almost gleeful in their disregard for their users’ privacy. Google+ is a little more circumspect about it, or they were, until they started using user posts as advertisements for products. It’s unfortunate. Google was a brand I had considerable trust in, and they’ve really pulled out all the stops by making G+ semi-mandatory if you want to use Blogger or YouTube or Zagat and so on.
Now, on the lower end of the bandwidth spectrum, you have Twitter. I was not impressed with Twitter when I first heard of the concept and I did not expect it to last. To my surprise, I’ve found it to be a delight and something of lasting utility to me. The simplicity and brevity of it means that I can find what interests me very quickly. Plus, it’s been fun to watch celebrities interact. I remember when Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer first started going back and forth on Twitter and it was exceedingly charming to watch. I love seen Warren Ellis and John Scalzi rib each other. Twitter’s simple, easy to use, and very accessible. Plus, I can’t deny that my inner fanboy gets all giggly when @neilhimself or @amandapalmer interact with you.
You may not think of ‘em this way, but MMORPG’s are a special kind of social network. They’re games, sure, but they’re not terribly good games. What gives them longevity, more so than compelling game play, is the community. I have dear friends whose names I don’t know and whom I’ll probably never meet in person.
I don’t really think of this space as a social network. But, when you extend it out into RSS land, then we’re getting close. I have a list of blogs I follow (the Friends of Pancakes page) and I try to stop by and contribute to discussions from time to time. I love RSS. It lets me pull the content I’m interested in rather than letting Facebook or Google+ choose it for me. I’m still ticked at Google for killing GReader.
So, that’s where I am right now, and that’s too much socializing for me. Honestly, the only networks I’m particularly active on are this and Twitter. The others are just too much to pay attention to or somewhat inaccessible. We’ll see how it evolves, but that’s the current state of play.