Monday, April 12, 2010

My problem with this Overdose of Social Networking...

A friend quoted 'The Greatest Comedian of All Times' (in her words. I'm guessing Seinfeld, but not sure) - "You've got to give people a chance to miss you a little bit" in the context of Google Buzz. Hilarious though the statement is, it drips with truth all over. Still... though I totally agree with it, this isn't my problem. Or wait, it might be.

Cliched phrases like "The world is getting smaller" and "It's the communication age" often take into account only the technological capability for the world to be more networked & connected. What's more important is whether this increased connectivity leads to more interpersonal communication (which, IMHO, should be the actual meaning of "improved connectivity" wrt humans).

A new social networking site immediately kindles hopes. Hopes of reconnecting with people we've lost touch with. And make no mistake, it's amazing how, with every such new social n/w option, we somehow "reconnect" with a someone we've lost touch with. Logically speaking, if we're in the "Connected" age now, then it automatically implies we should only make "new" social contacts, and not "renew" older ones, right? Sadly, Not the case. And herein lies my complaint.

Now this might be a totally personal issue, but I've steadily noticed this happening ever since my first mega-"separation from friends" happened, when I came to the US for grad studies. First, we had email & chat (ok technically not social networking, but networking nevertheless), which we somehow seemed to use with friends in college. Then orkut happened, and I remained devoted to it even when Facebook came. And then twitter happened. For me, twitter was/is awesome in that I got to meet a lot of new like-minded folks (apart from getting to see some serious humour from the usual suspects). That's another story.

That Expectation kills, is realized in all its true glory with every new social networking site. 2 unrelated cases -
  • A very dear friend from college who shockingly fell wide outside the radar ever since I came here. Chat happened for a few months after I came here. Then it became email once-a-year or when there was a necessity, which is how it is now. Screw emails, screw chat, screw orkut, screw FB, screw twitter. And now, she's following me in Buzz. Am I to expect some "renewal" now and be disappointed?
  • Another good friend who followed me in twitter. The more I tweeted, the more I was rudely shocked as to how little she reacted/interacted with me via tweets. And it wasn't the case that we were in spectacular touch over phone/chat. Where twitter gave us an excellent opportunity to interact, broadcast thoughts, I got this feeling of gross neglect. After a point I was so frustrated (paranoid?) I ended up blocking her. Can you believe it? Immaturity/childishness at its glorious best alright, but it wasn't without reason. It's like Eve's reasoning in "Paradise Lost" - I'm better off knowing fully well she doesn't follow me and not expecting any communication than vice versa.
You see, I am egoistic alright, but there is a threshold in friendship beyond which I absolutely shed all ego. All the people above had very much crossed this threshold, and there is no cause for any of my ego with them. You see, a friend NOT RT'ing me in twitter isn't an issue. That someone who is so close to me fails to react to something I have to say (which, in most cases, happens to be "important", "contentious", "reaction-provoking", etc. which is exactly stuff good friends are supposed to talk about, and which we do talk about, day in and day out) really gives me this enormous "conscious" (as naive users of English would say). Neglect? Dumbness? Idiocy?
  • Doesn't (s)he have anything to say about what I just tweeted?
  • Did I say something that's so dumb it failed to evoke any reaction from him/her?
  • If (s)he responds to/RT's someone else's, why didn't (s)he do so for mine, which was very similar.
    and so on...
After all, what is good friendship without your "friend" having something to say on whatever (at least most of it) you say, and reacting to/understanding whatever you say the way your statement was meant by you. Sadly, in my case, 95 % of the times, at least one of the two was true (not reacting/misunderstanding what I said).
(Please don't give me weak/dumb suppositions that my friend was busy/didn't see what I said. I have said all this only because the supposition isn't strong enough as a fact or is simply not relevant.)

Another thing I noticed is that newer social networking sites are being used by people to keep in touch with current contacts, and not old ones, which is how it should be.

Social networking today has pretty much been reduced to "rich getting richer & poor getting poorer" - huge egos becoming more bloated & small hearts made smaller.

A simple look at the number of people following more than 250 somewhat-regular-tweeters will prove my point. If you have a job & a life, there is NO WAY in this wide world that you will be able to sincerely follow more than 250 folks. I follow 50 and this pretty much takes a huge chunk of my non-work, non-sleep time. Which means people follow others just so they will re-follow you? How sad!

And that, again manifests itself when there's yet another new social networking enabler. Buzz is great, no questions about it, but it is, no doubt, poised to create a buzz in the minds of the buzzer about whether his buzz is actually creating any buzz.
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