My disaffection for social networks is nothing new. I’ve never appreciated the cavalier approach to security and privacy, and the shameless use of my screen space to plug products and concepts I have no interest in. For many years now, I’ve overlooked these problems, despite the fact that privacy and security issues matter a lot to me. I’ve overlooked them because, for the most part, I like people. I don’t like large crowds or big cities, don’t get me wrong. I like hearing from my friends. I like to post encouraging things for them and I like to see and share pictures of people and things I care about. Adding to my basic discomfort with services like FB and Twitter, the social upheaval in our country and the gross polarization of social networks has wiped-out any value they once held for me. I closed both my Twitter and FB accounts recently and I suspect I will not reactivate them for a long time if ever. And it’s not just because of the noise level. It’s at least in part for one other important reason.
I’ve come to suspect that social networks make us lazy with respect to our relationships and communication. There are at least a few studies that support the idea that the Internet is negatively affecting our ability to focus and retain information. And I think social networks are part of the problem. Yes, they enable us to follow distant acquaintances and family with ease, but they also seem to make us less likely to engage more deeply. I was recently reminded of this by a church friend, who took my post on Internet censorship as an invitation to a context-less debate on the topic. I thought I was simply expressing my opinion, but apparently I had stepped up to a virtual podium in front of an audience of hundreds (mostly people I don’t know) so he could engage in his favorite intellectual exercise. What ensued was less than pleasant and served to raise the final flag in my consciousness that the social network paradigm as it exists today, isn’t for me. To borrow a phrase from a good friend “The juice isn’t worth the squeeze”. These times call for perspective and there appears to be a marked lack of it on social networks, at least for the time being.