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Sunday, 16 May 2010

Social Networking and Me

Just been listening to last week's This Week in Google podcast, much of which centred on the recent concerns about Facebook privacy, as well as Facebook's apparent attempts to own the web. My own experience with Facebook used to be limited to a brief flirtation with it a couple of years ago. I gave up after a couple of weeks: I found I had little interest in giving the world a blow by blow account of my life, and I resented the wash of messages being a Facebook member generated, many from people I didn't even know. The final straw was a suggestion from a woman I'd never heard of that I should give her a slap. So I cancelled my account, or at least I think I did; it wasn't very straightforward.

Twitter and I have a similar relationship. As someone who's supposed to be tech-savvy, I felt I ought to open a Twitter account, but I quickly got fed up with having to repeatedly check for new messages (when I tried feeding them into Goggle Reader, I got someone else's messages instead--something to do with Google Reader not being set up to do logins). I do not share my user name, and have never tweeted. Despite this, I do get followers, though not for very long. None of them are names I recognise, and they all seem to be following hundreds of others without anyone reciprocating.

As someone who doesn't care to share the minutiae of his life with the world, the privacy issues of Facebook and others are less of a worry for me than the time it would take keeping up with all the messages they generate. I already have difficulty getting through all the blogs and podcasts I follow, as well as the music I want to listen to and the books I want to read, not to mention having a bit of a life away from the keyboard. Earphones and mobile devices have helped a lot: I've just finished listening to 'The Age of Innocence' (a novel I would probably never have got around to reading) on an Audible book, all done while cycling to and from work, or pounding the streets delivering election leaflets last month (much good that did). Even with their help though, there's still more content I want to consume than I can fit in to a day.

Despite me not being interested in Facebook and Twitter, in the last few weeks it's started to seem that I can't go anywhere on the web without being asked if I want to tweet about it or share it with Facebook. It feels like there's another layer being built over the web, one made up of the shared recommendations on social networking sites like Facebook, and maybe the time will come when newcomers to the web can be persuaded by the likes of Facebook to only access web pages via their site, in the same way that AOL and CompuServe tried with their home page portals.

Even Spotify, my beloved music streaming service, now invites me to share all my listening experiences. As if there might be someone out there who wants to know, in real time, which piece of music I've just listened to. Actually, I think I will start doing that, purely in the interest of research. I'll find out how long my few Twitter followers can stay interested in a stream of tweets directing them to pieces of music they've likely never heard of.

Or maybe I'll get some recommendations back.