Thursday, May 27, 2010

Anti-Social-Networking

Or: why I quit facebook and don't tweet.

A couple of weeks back I deleted my facebook account. I don't miss it. I hardly ever used it, and each new "update" just made the web page more painful. Besides, I really don't like the "all your data are belong to us" attitude betrayed by the steadily less private privacy controls.

Which brings up a question: we writing types tend not to be social butterflies. We're not going to write a novel in tweets or facebook updates. Heck, most of us won't write one in blog posts (and we won't mention my collection of dust-gathering blogs...). Where that gets fun is the ever-increasing requirement of publishers that their authors do their own publicity.

That's not the question. The question is this: in a massively networked future society, what happens to the introverts who don't want to be networked every which way? While there's always been an element of "who you know" to success, it's been possible to slip past that gateway and do well anyway, whether by luck, competence, or some other factor. When it's all networked together and your network is what determines if you can be trusted with anything from a McJob (if they still exist) up, what happens to the person who doesn't have and doesn't want a network?

It's an interesting thought, isn't it? For me it comes down to the question of whether the future that seems to be approaching at speed is one where I have a place. And that's before you consider the question of control - which is a minefield all by itself.

I like instant messaging because I can control who I see and who sees me. I'm not splatting something to the entire world. If I make a blog post, I know beforehand it's going out to the whole wide world (or the portion of it that's interested in what I write, which is a rather smaller group). I like knowing which is what, and having control over how much of it random strangers can reach. Or maybe that's just illusory - but the issue of virii and hacking is a different one again.

Is this a writer thing, or is it a geek thing? (Geeks will often choose to have more control even if it means more complexity, where the general population tends to go for simplicity at the expense of control). Or is it an introvert versus extrovert - or, just possibly, a Kate-weird thing?

What do you think? What do you want out of the facebooks and the twitters and whatever replaces them?

20 comments:

Amanda Green said...

Kate! Spew warning please before putting bugged eyed, black lolcats on teh internetz. Coffee now adorns my keyboard. I'll be back to comment AFTER I clean everything up ;-p

matapam said...

I've tried.

I have a Live Journal Blog. I think one person read it. I made a Live Journal Blog for a Character. Couldn't make myself advertise it.

Have a facebook account, with minimal info. I have tons of friends, Mostly Barflies, but one son and one sister as well. I reply to occasional things, have never initiated a thread.

I have AIM,probably open it once a week. no other IMs.

No twitter. No txting. No cellphone. I'll buy a laptop one of these months (This is down from years. One of these days I will be able to work away from home.)

Partly it's being an introvert, partly it's a resisting being controlled issue. If I don't have an electronic leash, no one can send me where they want me to go.

Partly it's being comfortable being on the outside looking in. If you're not part of the group, you aren't nudged and shoved and forced to act like one of the group. I am comfortable, lacking other peoples' approval.

WangZheng259 said...

I like control.

In my case, the writing part of such things is a big load on my time when I do it. I drift in and out of being organizationally and technically capable of hooking up with discussions where I have accounts. (WangZheng259 is an account rather than a handle. I name accounts different things, and keep them compartmentalized. By this I mean that I don't refer to the other accounts by name, for the most part, and don't mix signatures and stuff. For example, I'm active on the Diner on the Bar sometimes, but I don't use my bar signature here, and don't bring the silly Diner stuff I do there here or elsewhere.) I try and be more careful about what gets seen in more public areas, but nothing is truly secret that isn't only in one's head.

Lets see what else, I'm an introvert, and kinda a techie.

I used google messenger for a while, but ended up having to cut down the spent I spent on it significantly, and messengers are not natural for me.

I think facebook never really met my criteria for joining, but I've had a lot of accounts over the years, mostly in the categories of games, books/stories, and work/study/job search.

I think it'd be foolish to require social networking for a lot of jobs, so I tend to suspect such a scenario. (Although I used to read some of the 'Tom Clancy's Net Force' books, especially the kiddie ones called, I think, 'Net Force Explorers'. If you already have such a setting, that type of organization (Net Force Explorers) makes some sense as a recruitment tool.) I tend towards 'the future will be much like the present and the past' school of futurism.

I tend towards the expectation that the future will be much like the present.

I want something that doesn't have obnoxious login/add issues, while letting me read things, and then post, if I feel the urge. I want to have different passwords on everything, and not to worry about someone else logging on via my system. I want something that isn't an additional load on my own organization and my computer's memory. I want to be able to leave javascript and cookies off. I want secrecy, and security while still interacting with people. And while I'm at it, I want the sun, the moon and the stars, significant worldly power and a better monetary income.

matapam,
I think I came across your livejournal years back and read some of it. I don't know how that effects your calculations. :)

Kate said...

Amanda,

Sorry! It just seemed so very very apt.

On the plus side, maybe a caffeinated keyboard will work faster?

Kate said...

Matapam,

If I weren't such a geek, I'd probably be right there with you. I don't like my choices being made for me, either, and I'm extremely introverted. Put me in a group of people, and I watch from the sidelines.

On the whole group dynamics thing, absolutely! I hate having to go along with something I dislike, just because everyone else thinks it's wonderful.

Kate said...

WangZheng,

Control is a big thing for me - and for a lot of geeks. One example I saw is that about 1/4 of software engineers (geeks-by-definition) choose stick-shift, compared to something like 1/20 of the general population - and they'll tell you they prefer stick shift because it gives them more precise control over the car.

I agree that requiring social networking for jobs is foolish - particularly for jobs where social interaction isn't what the job is about. I don't care what a programmer's facebook friends list look like, I care that he/she can program, and I don't want him playing games online when he's supposed to be programming. (Asking friends for help with a sticky problem is a different beastie, and I don't care how that's accomplished).

Apart from the sun, moon and stars bit, what you want sounds perfectly reasonable to me - although I will say that anyone who wants privacy for themselves but wants everything about everyone else to be public (Facebook's CEO, anyone?) deserves all the scorn they get.

Re: Matapam's live journal - on the Internet, nothing ever dies. Someone, somewhere has it cached.

heteromeles said...

It's also possible to game it out. I mean, we've always operated on a "who you know," basis. On one hand, being "knowable" means that there are more opportunities for someone who needs you to find you. That's good.

On the other hand, if it really turns into a game of influence and connections, then we'll see people who want to find talent moving somewhere else to find the people they need. That's kind of what the ARPANET did in the first place, by allowing geeks in towns in either coast to talk with each other.

So, my forecast is nuisance in the short run, with forecast for sunny futures for introverts who just want to find the right people.

matapam said...

I never actually closed the Live Journal page - so it lives on. I see it's been a year since I pared it down to a single short story. Here: http://matapam.livejournal.com/
Wow, look! She's practically networking!

I really wish I didn't think I was going to have to learn how to (nicely) drag people into wherever I have stuff to read. It is not going to be fun.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

sigh. I'm an introverted extrovert. Don't try to analyze that. I do best in small groups, but in small groups I can be "the life of the party." And I seem to like people, sometimes even without salt. That said, particularly when writing, I NEED lots of time alone with my thoughts. And I don't mean "when actively writing" but when in the process of writing, which includes research and thinking about time.
Back when I was a beginning writer, I noticed a pattern. I would have a year of writing and a year of sending out. As far as I can tell my advertising follows same pattern. When I'm working I go inward and disappear. When I'm not working, I submit and make much noise. :)
I still wish someone else would advertise my stuff, so I could (just) write. That's, to quote a friend of mine "mon metier." I never wanted to be a publicity person.

Kate said...

Heteromeles,

Ah yes. Playing the game. Honestly, if I don't look at it that way, I'd never get anywhere.

Introverts finding the right people generally doesn't happen through "official" networking. It happens through... well, places like this, where people with a common interest hang out - and sometimes let it all hang out.

I'm cautiously hopeful - but then, I'm going on (thinks) 8 years married to the guy I met online via a Usenet newsgroup, so...

Kate said...

Matapam,

Indeed. My assortment of abandoned blogs live on somewhere, too. Possibly more than one somewhere.

I suspect that some form of communities will evolve - right now we're in the exploratory form of that particular evolution.

Kate said...

Sarah,

Being able to put on the face and like watching them is a good thing. Liking people even without ketchup is a very good thing.

Needing alone time to recharge is very common with introverts. Personally I find that so long as I'm the one controlling what's happening, the internet makes for a good compromise - I can interact with what I presume are real people on the other side of the screen, without putting myself on show.

Stephen Simmons said...

Control? Nah, couldn't be that ... just because I still consider Windows to be a virus we inflict on our own computers, and still pine for the days when I could type a DOS command and know exactly what the computer would do in response ...

I haven't figured out how to cope with any of this generation's compulsive connectivity. I grew up in a town so small we didn't even need the one traffic light we had. (My high school class would have been 28 people, had I not been shipped off to military school for behavioral issues my last two years.) I lived three miles outside of that town, and spent countless hours walking or biking in complete solitude. I'm comfortable being un-networked.

I spent my Navy career in fast-attack submarines. A submarine underway is about as unconnected as you can possibly get, and the total crew complement is less than 150.

I have a cell phone because my wife likes to be able to tell me to pick up milk on the way home from work. Last month I used it a total of 24 minutes. Ironically, my job now requires me to carry a company cell phone as well. I have a Facebook account because I was advised to start creating an online presence if I wanted to get serious about this authoring stuff, but I only dabble in it sporadically.

I am still an unrepentant dreamer at heart. I want to believe that the world will always have a place for talented people to be able to find recognition for their actual merits, whether or not they manage to know the "right" people first. I think the explosion in networking will mostly just increase the ambient noise that the people with merit will have to shout over in order to be heard, when all is said and done. Like reality television shouldering aside other equally valueless dreck, without detracting from quality programs like "NCIS" and "24".

Anthony J Langford said...

Good post.. and nice to hear! Everyone on Facebook seems to be in the same mood.. it's all about ME ME ME!! With everyone talking about themselves its a wonder anyone is communicating at all! Perhaps they're not...It's all very contrived...
I just can't do Twitter...
Hopefully it will all blow over in a few years...
..until the next thing..

=]

Synova said...

I actually thought about the sort of negative space potentially created by the non-participants in social networking programs. (Also, if people wear computer assists with context interpretation and a data stream as they walk through life going to even see those people who don't participate? Wish I could get hold of that particular idea and take it someplace.)

In any case... I was just thinking about the face book thing because I want to delete it. I haven't looked at it in weeks, not since I got a "are you mad at me, why won't you friend me" note from my childhood best friend and a similar note from my BIL.

I'd rather have my IM active or an actual chat host going. And I really do not want to know that someone in farmville grew a carrot.

I think I would be quite happy in the negative spaces.

Synova said...

I like usenet. I like blogs. I like MMORPGs, which let you catch up with friends while you kill dragons.

Dave Freer said...

"Where that gets fun is the ever-increasing requirement of publishers that their authors do their own publicity"

This of course makes slightly less sense than saying 'All surgeons should make their own bacteriocidal soap and scrub their operating theaters.' The defining trait of 95% of the great reading authors is that um, their social skills suck. That's why they write, often as not.

grumble. And Mike just does not get the fact that I am a typical author - at least in this respect. I don't have huge social skills, nor buckets of time for it - time out facebooking or blogging is time out of writing. Or sleep. Or speaking to my wife.

I've been trying really hard with the Flinders family Freer Blog. I don't tweet well (that's why i write 100 000 word novels not 160 word ones.)

I feel publishers are not keeping up their side of the bargain. If they want us to do this sort of thing (and it's a mistake IMO) - they should devote someone to publicising those efforts at least, to act as a multiplier.

Anthony J Langford said...

Here here Dave. Totally with you.

It's time better spent writing, or God forbid, actually enjoying life...

Dave Freer said...

Anthony -I think it's a 'something extra for nothing' attitude from the industry - and it bugs me because they get 94% of the benefit from it. They could put in some effort (say another 50% of what I did) as I say, as multipliers. Here is the simple truth - if did (by luck in my case, not skill) end up with a substantial audience to my social media... explain to me again why I should not simply profit from it myself?

DK said...

Yeah, the publishing industry has been taken over by the same kinds of people who run the music industry. Hence why they're stupid enough to think social networking equals free money.

That said, keeping a blog or a Facebook is a good way to connect with one's readers that isn't explicitly commercial. Niche and genre authors, I've found, build pretty loyal fanbases by establishing a rapport online with them, and said fanbases would be put off by authors who only acknowledge them when it's time to pitch a book. Simply put, if people like you, they'll feel comfortable supporting you by buying your stuff. Social networking is good for that.

That said, I don't agree with the idea that an author has to use EVERY networking tool. If you have a blog and a website and a Facebook, for example, what good is a Twitter account actually going to do you? Publishers don't get that yet. But direct communication with readers and other writers is certainly beneficial.