A brief commentary on social networking websites.
At the behest of my wife and a few of my friends from back home, I finally joined Facebook last week. Actually, I opened a Facebook account ages ago, but hadn’t really much with it. It sat dormant in cyberspace for months because frankly, I just couldn’t be bothered. I hadn’t even filled in the info on my profile page, let alone downloaded any photos of yours truly for public consumption. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago, after my wife sent me a friend invite to her Facebook (she insists on having some sort of email or online correspondence, never mind that we live together, go figure) that I decided to give Facebook a closer look.
I’m a relative latecomer to Facebook, mainly because I’m a bit weary of social networking sites. Past experiences have led me to the conclusion that they are usually stupid and disappointing affairs.
MySpace, for example, is nothing but bells and whistles and thanks to the Artic Monkeys and Sandi Thom it’s become sort of a marketing wasteland for nearly every untalented garage band on the planet. My friends list contains three times more bands and musicians that I’ve never heard of than it does people I actually know. It’s not that I consider myself to be some kind of half-assed David Geffen or anything; it’s just that I don’t have the heart to turn these artists down. Plus there’s that vain part of me that wants to build up an impressive list of “friends” just in case, you know, that cheerleader that shot me down my sophomore year in high school happens to come across my MySpace page, because once she sees how many “friends” I have listed, she’ll see how important I’ve become and live the rest of her life in regret. Yeah, that’ll teach her.
Of course, if you are an up and coming band hoping to break it big via MySpace, well, good luck. Just because my “friends” list is filled with artists and musicians, it doesn’t mean I actually take the time to listen to you guys. Actually in the very beginning, I did listen to the tracks that bands were posting on their page - the music ranging from so-so to absolute crapola. After about the fourth or fifth one though, I realized that pretty much all of them were likely to be pretty bad, so I didn’t bother. Sorry bands, but these cheap videos you keep posting on YouTube don’t hold a patch over going to a live gig; and I get the feeling that I’m not alone in my feeling. Even if I am curious enough about your band to have a listen, finding your latest downloads is a task unto itself because the website is crowded with so many advertisement banners that any information you put on you page is immediately drowned out. That’s a problem with most of these social networking sites; they’re too cluttered –particularly MySpace, and the banner ads certainly don’t help.
After getting bored with MySpace, I eventually gravitated towards Bebop, a site that’s even dumber. Okay, so it’s a little cleaner than MySpace, I’ll give you that. There’s a lot less banner advertisements and you can actually see the information and stuff that you put on there as opposed to Iggy Pop pimping car insurance. You can actually see the skin you’ve chosen for your background. Only problem is there doesn’t seem to be much to do on it. You can post photos from last weekend’s rave when you’re best friend got so totally f**ked up on ecstasy and sambuca that you woke up two days later in a Paris cemetery and you can write blogs and ….well, that appears to be it. Admittedly, by the time I joined Bebo I was already pretty cynical towards social networking sites – in fact so much so that my entire Bebo page is a parody of one – so I got bored with it before I really made any attempts to explore it. In fact after a year and a half of Bebo, I’ve only got eight friends. My other and probably more vexing problem with Bebo, though is the amount of emails I get from women unknown inviting me to check out their photos and or website. Now I can only assume that these photos aren’t from a family vacation at Disneyland. If they are, I’m not interested. If they aren’t…well, okay, I’ll admit there’s some mild curiosity, but not enough to risk catching hell from my better half.
So by the time my wife invited me to join her Facebook, I was naturally, pretty resistant. Then I got a couple of emails from old acquaintances from high school, asking me to be their Facebook(s) friends. Ah, this was a curious development; because pretty much all networking sites boast that they can get you back in touch with old friends, but I sure as hell couldn’t find any of mine. Wherever they were, they certainly weren’t posted on MySpace or Bebo. Apparently, they’re all on Facebook. After 20 minutes of searching I found listings for about half of my classmates along with postings for reunions. I decided to take the plunge and finish my profile. However, as impressed as I was, I still wasn’t quite sold. After all, I don’t even live on the same continent as most of my classmates do; it’s hardly likely that I’m going to go to the reunion.
What finally sold me was Mafia Wars, which is why my wife invited me in the first place. For those who may be unfamiliar, Mafia Wars is a role playing game – kind of like Dungeons and Dragons; except its online and it’s got guns and mobsters. In this game, the more people you recruit for your army the more powerful you can become; kind of like a pyramid scheme. It’s an incredibly addictive game, which can be a bit of a problem. Over the course of the week I found myself ducking into the computers at work to play a couple rounds and last night I actually lost sleep worrying about whether I should get up to bank my money in case another player attacked me during the course of the night. My wife is just as hooked, if not more so. Over half our conversations have been about Mafia Wars and we’ve been fighting over use of the computer every night. At this rate, we’ll be serving each other divorce papers before the end of the month.
I don’t have a particularly addictive personality, so I’m sure I’ll eventually get bored with this and move on to something else. But for now…it’s time to play some Mafia Wars.