Really, it’s getting ridiculous.
I’m referring to the never-ceasing pileup of social networking sites and tools. LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, instant messaging, text messaging, Twitter, the upcoming Google Wave — all these are just the tip of the iceberg. They start out as seductive siren calls, promising increased social contact with ease. The fine print, which we usually gloss over, is that these tools are ravenous monsters, starving for your time and attention.
E-mail? Phone? Face to face meetings? Pfft, who has time for those slow interpersonal connections, when you could be glued to your Blackberry, your computer, your iPhone to see if your friend halfway across the globe has posted about whether or not they like the new Spider-Man issue?
I’m as guilty as anyone for overloading on the information age. Apart from blogging and movie reviewing, I spend probably too much time online every day reading up on other blog posts, checking Twitter like a spastic mouse (lest it pile up, horror of horrors), browsing to different forums I frequent, and making sure that the hundreds of people that I call friends on Facebook haven’t posted any life-altering information.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of good that comes from these tools, especially when they’re used in moderation and in conjunction with real life meetings. But lately I’ve been feeling as if, at least, I am approaching the point where I’m either a little too old or a little too overwhelmed to keep jumping on the newest social networking platform that whizzes down the street. For example, I don’t get why Google’s Wave is so very necessary — as far as I can tell, it’s pretty much a slightly more modern bulletin board. It just strikes me as another company trying to jump on the social networking bandwagon, introducing even more noise to my world.
And I really don’t get why all these video games and MMORPGs think that I somehow lack social connections enough that they have to go ahead and create a lackluster version of Facebook or WordPress on their sites as well. Turbine’s MyDDO/MyLOTRO, EA/BioWare’s social network, GamerDNA, XFire, XBox Live, every guild that tells me I have to join their forum before they’ll accept me — I don’t need it. It’s not necessary to being a gamer. It’s, quite frankly, mostly useless extraneous crap. And it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who’s feeling this way.
In some cases, we’re being forced into it. As of next month, Blizzard is requiring all WoW subscribers to switch over to Battle.net in order to log in — you have to do it if you want to play, period. I don’t think it takes a genius to see that this is going to cause a major headache when November rolls around and millions of subscribers who’ve yet to hear about this or do it will find themselves locked out of the game and pretty darn angry about it. But hey, it’s a great move, because as Blizz says:
Our vision is to create an environment where gamers can compete online, develop an online persona, and stay connected to friends and the rest of the community while enjoying our games.
Whew. Thank God they’re doing that, otherwise I’d have no idea how to “develop an online persona” without the help of almighty Battle.net.
What really terrifies me is to even try to imagine the noise that will inhabit our world in ten, twenty years’ time. When my boy is hitting his teenage years, how many social networks will he need to feel, well, social? Will he see dad spending too much time frantically making the internet rounds and do likewise, ignoring the call of his friends who want to go hang out at the park? Or will we draw the line somewhere, limit our online hookups, and ignore the cries that the rest is “essential” to our social well-being?
I like being a citizen of the internet age as much as anyone… but there’s a growing part of me that’s oddly wistful of the days before it. And I’m just old enough to remember that they did exist, and we definitely were social back then as well, even without Twitter’s mighty hand.