Web 2.0, the rise of social networking. Pointless tech buzz words aside, social networking and the web as an infrastructure for building connections and community is what Web 2.0 seems to be all about. it is really incredible if you stop to think about it. I can now speak to a Tibetan yak farmer (providing he has come kind of internet connectivity) easier than I can talk to my next door neighbor. The only problem is, I don't really want to. I'm 37 years old, and in my 37 years of life I have accumulated a very small number of people I consider close friends. I have a number of other associates, co-workers, casual acquaintances, etc that I interact with on a regular basis. The people I choose to talk to I do so because I find them interesting, or we have a common interest, or because the dictates of job and polite society dictate that I have some contact and communication with them. I don't generally go out of my way to talk to people I don't need to, and I don't just strike up conversations with random people on the street. If I won't expend the energy to say more than a few words to my neighbors over the course of the year, why would I want to have long conversations with a Tibetan yak farmer that I have nothing in common with and will never meet. Sure there are arguments to be made for expanding my horizons and such, and they are good arguments. But really, I just don't have the time or the inclination to seek out strangers on the net to be my friend. If I did, I would most likely be better served striking up a conversation with the guy next door. Chances are there is a lot more interesting about him than I can ever glean from just watching him take the garbage out in his pajamas.
Social networks are also something of a misnomer I would argue. More often than not they appear to be nothing more than self-aggrandizing popularity contests. The geeks that were ostracized by the cool kids in school are now seeing how many “friends” they can have in their MySpace list or how many followers on Twitter. Blogging is bad enough, blathering on at length about your current deep thought or rant as if anyone else really cares is itself an exorcise in ego inflation (the irony is not lost on me here), but something like Twitter thats sole purpose is to broadcast your every little trivial thought and action to everyone is the height of self-important delusion. Just to make sure I wasn't missing the point, I tried Twitter for a month or so. I still don't get it. I don't care that Mur wants pie or that Mike is editing a podcast. Does anybody? It's not that I don't care about these people, I just don't need to know what they are doing/thinking/feeling every five minutes. It's not like they are international spies or assassins leading lives of action packed excitement. They are geeks, much like myself, sitting in front of a keyboard pretending that they are doing something more exciting than moving bits around a computer.
The great social network is becoming nothing more than another way for self-absorbed people to tell everyone how great and special they are. The true potential of the net is being eclipsed by one-way communication used for nothing more earth shattering than making people feel special.
Oh well, I'm just one step further along the path of sitting on rocker on the porch and yelling at the neighborhood kids. I just hope that when I finally get there I won't have to log onto Twitter to do so.