Virtual time – the trap of social networking

by Shane Perris on Wednesday, 20 February, 2008

in opinions

Socialising and networking takes time. A lot of time.  The more friends you have, the more time you need. There are phone calls, emails, letters (honest-to-god by hand, on paper letters – they do exist – look it up if you don’t believe me), catch-ups, dinners, chats over coffee/tea/beer/protein shakes – it goes on and on. The more you value your friends and networks, the more time you spend on them.  It’s hard but valuable, rewarding and cherished work.

It is no different in that nebulous and ephemeral virtual world we have all come to know and love as “social networks” – the Facebooks, Jaikus, Myspaces, Twitters, Diggs and last.fms of the world.  There is a very good chance that if you are reading this blog, you belong to at least one, if not most or indeed all of the places I just mentioned.

There are many benefits to belonging in a social network.  You can meet new people, share ideas with those that are like-minded and debate those that are not, get recommendations from the social host, discover new things and have old beliefs reinforced.  You can use it to network in the more traditional sense, raise awareness of what you do, look for a job or look for someone to fill a job.  All this and so much more.

It can be so easy to make new friends, especially if you don’t have to maintain a face-to-face relationship. You can add people from all over the place – the more friends the merrier for some.  Having new things automatically recommended to you is awesome. Think of the time saved now you don’t have to look for new things yourself! But is it really time saved?  Every social network has a user profile of some sort, asking for information that ranges from the basic (age, name, location etc) through to the detailed (last 3 jobs, list 10 hobbies, favourite books, movies, authors, bands, food etc. etc. and did I mention etc.?).  The more questions asked and the more granular the information that is collected, the better the experience, or so the theory goes.

It feels like every day, a new network pops up on my radar or a website implements one for registered users. Just last month I discovered I was suddenly a member of the Mashable! network simply because I registered to leave a comment!

Filling out profiles takes time (a lot of time time, if done in detail).  Checking up on your friends’ updates takes time (a lot of time you have a lot of friends).  Populating your network presence takes time (uploading photographs, updating status, ignoring Facebook apps – yet another big batch of etcs.). The demands on my time become stronger every day.

I’m tired of being social. Can I have my life back now? Please?

 

Photo credit: luc legay

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