In March 2002, a new website launched that would forever change the face of the net. The idea behind the site was to create a place on the web where people could gather, meet new people, and exchange information.
Since that time, Friendster has enjoyed great success as the first social networking website, setting the stage for the subsequent launches of MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, YouTube, and a host of other networking sites.
Whereas social networking was once considered the sole domain of tech-savvy tweens and after-school teens, today we see people of all ages logging on and enjoying the benefits of keeping up with family and friends across the country and around the world.
I’m not here to knock that. I think it’s a great thing that we can all keep in touch with each other. And, it’s fun to boot.
But some are looking at these sites and wondering why they need to know that Uncle Ted likes boxer shorts over briefs, or why Susan has posted 20 unintelligible updates during her 2 hour-long trip to the mall. And I won’t even mention Facebook’s recent “25 Things” which caused some people including myself to scratch my head and say, “Uh, I really didn’t need to know that.”
So are we starting to know just a bit too much about each other? Some are beginning to think maybe so.
Facebook: Walls of Worry
One amusing practice on Facebook that a college-aged relative of mine remarked on recently is couples who take smoochy pics of themselves in various stages of embrace. Then they proceed to post the pics on the site as a sort of “bragging rights” and to let others know how wonderful their lives are with their special someone.
And then there’s the Wall. No, not the Pink Floyd song from way back when. This Wall is where people go to chat on Facebook, to update their status, and where stuff related to what you’re doing just magically appears.
The other day I participated in a professional Facebook group discussion, and what do you know, Facebook automatically posted my participation in that group on my Wall with a date stamp.
Okay, so now the whole world knows I participated in a group discussion on such and such a date and here’s what I said in that discussion. But does anybody really care? Thus far I haven’t received any congratulatory replies on my Wall. And probably 99.9 percent of my Facebook friends have no idea what the group is about anyhow.
But even more amusing is when couples air their dirty laundry on Facebook for the entire world to see, sometimes getting into some heated Wall-to-Wall arguments. Then of course, they make up and everyone’s back to smooching and sending kisses.
MySpace: The Place for Weirdness
MySpace is even more amusing than Facebook in the sense that you don’t really “know” many of your friends personally. Some may not even be your friends at all due to all the identity issues on the site.
Don’t get me wrong, people have indeed formed real and lasting friendships on the site for sure. I know I have.
But even so, often times you see status updates from people you don’t really know about their everyday lives such as, “Mamacita keeps having to go to the bathroom, maybe she should ask her doctor about her bladder control problem.” Or, “Robert_Egg sees a new world of opportunity!” What does that mean? I don’t know.
In MySpace, people socialize not through a Wall per se, but rather through comments and blogs. So it’s funny to see people posting highly personal (sometimes unintelligible) messages to friends through their public comments such as, “Yeah man, meet at Joe’s at 6, then head out to the concert at 9 – woo hoo yeah dude’s gonna partay!”
Twitter: The Anti-Social Networking Social Networking Micro-Blog Site
Twitter is a fascinating anomaly. When I first heard of the site back in 2008, I said to myself, “Aren’t short status updates already built into MySpace and Facebook? This site is lame; it will never succeed.”
I was wrong.
Not only is the micro-blogging site Twitter a huge success for its now-famous 140-character or less status updates, it has also become the most popular anti-social networking social networking site on the net.
Twitter users don’t have to deal with the nuisance of friending and defriending. Sure, people can follow you and you can follow others; and you can remove, block, or send private messages to followers. But with only a 140-character text limit, what can really annoy you so much that you’d want to do so in the first place?
Other social networking websites including Facebook and MySpace are becoming overly app-happy, barraging the user with funky apps and granny slaps. While those apps can be fun and even addicting, it’s the ironic simplicity of Twitter that has made the site into such a success.
In other words, with Twitter, you can only learn so much about someone in 140 characters. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Has Social Networking Become Too Social?
So, has social networking become too social? Do we now know too much about our friends and family that it’s beginning to cause mass eye-rolling and uncomfortable grumbling?
The future holds two possibilities: “I’m glad I knew that about the person,” and “Ugh, I think that’s a little too much information for me.”
I’m leaning toward the latter.