I am so sick of social networking sites that send spam, pollute my address book, pry into my life, and otherwise screw up the very social sphere they are supposed to serve. Since these things are popping up like plastic moles at an arcade, it’s hard to avoid getting sucked into one or two. And just when you think you’re safe, suddenly another site is impersonating you in an email. “Since you’re someone I trust…”
I avoided all of these things for years before finally succumbing to LinkedIn. It seemed like everyone in my (professional, over-30) “network” was on it, and was sending me invites all the time, so I decided to jump in and join just that one network. LinkedIn was, and remains, just “ok”. I like that it is focused professionally and that many of my colleagues are in it. I really don’t like that it’s not really integrated with anything – your network lives on LinkedIn and never gets out much. And I hate the spammy messages and Ponzi scheme aspect of collecting contacts and luring others in. But it remains ok.
Then there are the social social sites. I “joined” MySpace so I could keep up with one of my favorite bands, but I’ve never really used it. It’s just so creepy and ugly – a race to see who can come up with the worst home page reminiscent of the way-back days of the world wide web. I refuse to use it, except to delete the continual spam mail from would-be women friends in Russia… Come on, Tom, can’t MySpace do something about that?
Next up? Facebook! Aah yes, home of 10,000 useless ways to “poke” someone you already know. And home to exactly 38 people that I kinda know. It was interesting playing with the customization features, and seeing the crowded but much less ugly home pages. But it’s not for old folks like me, I guess.
So why am I writing this today? Well, if you’re my friend (and if you’re reading this, you probably are) then you might have just received some more social-spam from me this morning. And I wanted to apologize. See, I just tried out Spock, a people search engine that looked kind of keen. It mines other sites to try to come up with uniform information about people from all those other social networks – a network of networks. It asked me to add in my connections, so I let it search my address book (which, thanks to Plaxo, is about as crufty and full of surprises as my kids’ toy box) and then told me that 135 contacts were “already on Spock”, so I could “add them to my trust network”. Sure, I stupidly, thought adding them to my trust network sounds OK! After clicking “Add to trust network”, it asked if I wanted to email everyone else, and I said no. Now I am not sure what Spock did to request trust, and I have no way to take it back.
But there was something nagging me at the end of this little interaction with Spock, making me think I might just have spammed everyone yet again. Maybe I’m just mistrustful or jaded, but I guess I’ve just gotten to the point of assuming that all social networking sites are Ponzi schemes to bring eyeballs to ads by sending out email “on my behalf”.
I’m sick of it. I’m opting out of the next social network I get invited to, and I suggest you do the same. I’m thinking of pulling out of Plaxo, Facebook, and MySpace. And the next site I trust that spams my friends will get the boot, too. Hear me, social networks? Quit it or I quit.