Friday, September 28, 2007

Social Networking

After reading Reihan Salam's Slate articles about the Facebook Commandments and Related Social Networking Issues, it occurred to me that there is one fundamental problem I can never get past with social networking websites: after a month or so, what's the urge to keep going back?

It takes about a month to do the only things I consider worth doing on these sites:
  • Find all my friends (new ones, old ones, people from high school) and add them or "friend" them.
  • Seek out all the people I had unreciprocated crushes on in high school/college and engage in schadenfreude as I see that they're still hanging around with the same 5 people and still live in the same town they always have. Of course, as most of you know, this can sometimes backfire disastrously if they're doing well.
  • Attempt to spy on people from work that I've met or friends of friends that I meet at a party.
That's about it. I joined Myspace last year and was really intruiged by it for about a month. This summer I joined Facebook and the same thing happened. Clearly, though, as I can tell by my "newsfeed" on Facebook when I log on (and yeah, I still do, about once a week or so), there are people that go there every single day and make minor cosmetic changes to their page. It really seems like a lot of energy to keep it up and it just can't be that fun to, say, add a new movie to your "favorites" list. Perhaps I don't have enough friends around the globe for this to be worthwhile? Maybe I'm just not the kind of person who, as Groucho Marx says, wants to be part of a club that would have me as a member? I dunno.

At least the Facebook interface is relatively clean to look at; the new Rupert Murdoch-controlled Myspace is completely overrun with giant, tacky video ads and friend requests from companies posing as easy, webcam-loving women. The whole thing is too gaudy and, feeling bombarded by bad taste, my experience on the site always feels a little tainted.

That being the case, I still feel like everything I say about these sites has to be taken with a grain of salt because I'm just (a little) too old to have grown up with this stuff as intrinsic part of the high school/college culture. It seems pretty clear that everyone who is in college right now or has finished college in the last year or two pretty much takes this stuff for granted. I kind of figure having a profile on Facebook is sort of like having a Napster account when I was in college: it would have been pretty much inconceivable (or borderline insane) not to have one. Maybe accumulating a lot of friends on Facebook is the equivalent of downloading the most albums from Napster? I don't know.

But I guess I can't really say that I don't care, either, about the social networking explosion. Frankly, I think I'm a little jealous. Being the snobby college student that I was (ok, fine, I'm still a snob, but not as bad), I can just imagine spending countless hours crafting the "favorite bands" section, or making sure that my "how I'm feeling today" quote had just the right level of wry sophistication.

Wait a minute, on second thought, this would have been a disaster! Good lord, I would have done even less studying in college than I already did! I guess sometimes it helps to be just a little behind the times...


Anonymous said...

Groucho Marx said that.

Josh said...

Oh wow, of course, that was a dumb thing to write. I've changed it!