Is Social Networking… TOO Social?

Time magazine did a back-o’-the-napkin calculation.

 Suppose you estimate about five million of these “25 Random Things” messages in circulation in a single week.

 Given 25 details in each note, that’s 125 million random facts making the rounds. Even at just 10 minutes to come up with each list, that’s roughly 800,000 hours of time… probably at work… spent on Facebook.

 Okay, I’ll admit it… I don’t ‘get’ it.

 That is, I get the technology. It’s the appeal that escapes me. Not just Facebook, but MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reunion, and all the rest.

Yes, I know that makes me sound like a curmudgeon.

 Don’t get me wrong. I’m on it, if begrudgingly. Simply because so many friends invited me, it seemed rude to keep on ignoring the invitations.

 I’m now at around 969 or so friends… ranging from my hometown acquaintances to faraway college friends, an ex-girlfriend or two, old work colleagues, grad school friends, and so on. Plus random requests from, well, you guys.

 I haven’t invited any of them myself.

I just accept the connections as they come. And sure, watching the network build… the status updates… the pictures of their kids… the details of their lives after we last saw each other… these really are good things.

 But I can’t help question the opportunity cost.

 For instance, where does everyone find the time to update a status or tap in all those notes? I can barely keep up with my email inbox. Now I’ve got to worry about forgetting to “Facebook” Mom too?

 Plus, the lost privacy. Not that I have anything to hide, but in all the time I’ve had a Facebook account, I’ve never entered a “status” update. Not once.

 Not that I have anything to hide… but some details just don’t feel important enough to share. (“John F. was just typing… and he’s still typing. There he goes again!” Welcome to the endless status loop.)

 Certainly, there’s a massive marketing benefit to this whole social network phenomenon (can you say ‘self-expanding, self-selecting mailing lists?’).

 But… well… let’s just say that when they throw the Facebook friends and family reunion about a dozen years from now… you’ll find me over by the digital punchbowl.



  1. I like what you say and how you tell us your thoughts about social networking. I guess I am a reluctant Tweeter too and despite opening a FB account back in 2007, I still need to ‘operate’ it properly though I seriously doubt I ever will.

    As for Tweeting? Less said the better. How we are supposed to properly engage each other in 140 characters is way beyond my bonding threshold especially when I get blitzed by so many people who think it’s vital to flood me out with quotes from The Quote Garden or replicate news from TechCrunch or some site that they patronisingly think I cannot possibly retrieve the news from firsthand.

    My latest batch of tweets have not been of the ‘correct ‘ sort. Namely, don’t bore me with quotes or tech news and “I must stop following the herd, I must stop following the herd….”

    Please reserve a space for me at the digital punchbowl. And if I don’t get there in time you’ll know its because I’m fighting a losing battle to wend my way through thousands of inane tweets and hundreds of uninvited followers tweeting utter rubbish for what? My attention?

    I truly am not worthy of anyone’s tweets or FB ‘friendship’. Please pass it on to them to find someone else to endear themselves to.

  2. Thanks Robert… and I think there will be more of us over at that digital punchbowl than you think! I continue to see the merits of the social networking trend. I even go on to Facebook once in a rare while to see what friends (the real ones that actually might come over to dinner with a bottle of wine if invited) have been up to. Yet, when I see how often some posters visit and the depth (or lack thereof) of what they post… I’m taken by surprise. I don’t know where they find the time.

  3. Yes, there is a huge opportunity cost that is getting drained by going Social. That said this is the new telephone. Kids hook up and break up over SMS. Being banned from your buddy’s friends list is death. In comparison we considered it appropriate to hook up or break up over phone and our parents thought it unthinkable. What I think we need to remember while grousing over at the digital punchbowl is to remember that this is yet another channel of communication which may be appropriate to the times we live in. We have to engage in 140 characters. Yes the noise factor has gone up a 100 fold. So relevance has become …hyper relevant? It not “how will I engage” but “I must engage in 140” because thats all the space they are windowing out of their souls.

  4. Good analogy. I suppose it’s no accident that I’m not a fan of long phone conversations either. Or SMS. Though I’m no Luddite, I can see why I might be mistaken for one. I think the key insight of yours above is that this is “yet another channel”… that is, it’s an addition to the pool. But not one that necessarily excludes all others. I’m convinced you’re write that engagement can and does happen in 140 characters… but would remain resolute (as I imagine you would) that few relationships mature there. It’s one thing to “hook” attention, quite another to keep and nurture it.

    Consider, for instance, those over-the-phone hookups and breakups. I’m sure grandma would be shocked to find out you can, say, get engaged these days via SMS or Twitter. But I’d bet she’d be equally shocked if any of those couples managed to have kids that way ; ).

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