Anti Social Media
I'll just say it: I don't like the so-called "social media" aspects of the current Internet. Maybe it's because I've been engaged in online communities for more than twenty years; maybe it's because I'm a misanthrope. I don't use -- nor do I have any interest in -- Digg, Facebook, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, MySpace, Reddit, or whatever other "social networking" sites are currently in vogue. I'm not particularly interested in meeting new people through these venues, and I'm extremely wary of the so-called "value" they provide. I have my blog, and I'm satisfied with it.
There is a very rigid limit to my capacity for continuous partial attention, so I am extremely conscious about adding new things to follow. I intentionally limit the number of email lists to which I subscribe. I'm very selective about the feeds I add to my news reader. I'm even more selective about who I follow on Twitter; and I refuse to participate in more than one microblogging solution; so Jaiku and Pownce and Tumblr and whatever else is out there are right out.
I recently attended the first Columbus TweetUp, at which Columbus Twitter users had an opportunity to meet one another face-to-face. I felt a bit like an odd-man-out at this gathering in part because many of the attendees seemed to know one another already; but mostly because I wasn't following any of them on Twitter, nor was I likely to do so. I'm simply not interested in reading the goings-on of a dozen or more people just because they happen to live in the same city as me. The (very) occasional gem of insight I might glean from following one or more of them would be almost instantly drowned out in the noise of constant updates and replies to one another.
Don't get me wrong: I'm glad that these folks find Twitter (and similar services) so useful. I'm glad that they've found a way to extend their network of contacts. It's just that for me, it's too overwhelming. Maybe it's the pessimist in me, but I often approach signing up to receive quantities of new information from the "coming back from vacation" point of view. When I come back from vacation, is this stuff going to overwhelm me? Am I going to simply delete huge swaths of this stuff if I get too far behind on it? If so, why am I paying attention to it to begin with? Or maybe I'm simply too mercenary about the matter, looking for what benefit their Twittering and blogging will provide to me. Or maybe I really am just anti-social and not particularly interested in what folks have to say if I don't have an existing meaningful connection to them in some capacity (which begs the question: how do I establish said meaningful relationships with new folks?).
At the TweetUp I did have a very nice conversation with Denise. This was in part due to the seating arrangements -- she was the only person near me who wasn't already engaged in conversation with someone else -- but it was also due to a variety of similarities we share. It was nice to make an acquaintance, and I even started following her on Twitter when I got back to my computer. Thankfully, she updates as infrequently as I do, so I'm not drowning in updates I'm uninterested in reading.
It's ironic that I'm so ambivalent about local technology users communicating with one another, but so enthusiastic about global communications and the wonderful experiences it creates.