Oh, internet. How you entangle.
I used to be pretty indifferent about the online communities I used. Being somewhat late to the party (I never used Friendster or Livejournal - okay, that second part's not true, but I digress), I figured each newly ubiquitous community was okay as long as it served its purpose and didn't make my life too complicated. When Facebook sprung up, however long ago, it seemed a godsend; the ugly, non-functional mess that is Myspace had long since worn out its welcome, and back then, Facebook was simple, clean, and spartan. Plus it seemed a good way for people to keep track of me, if they felt so inclined. Anyway.
Cut to the present, and the natural evolution of popular online communities has once again played itself out: Facebook has turned into something bloated and ungainly. Where once it was elegant, it is now an eyesore. Again, digressing, but I'm going somewhere with this.
This is not the place for me to list all the things I don't like about Facebook; the faux-connectivity it creates, the bizarre share-all mentality it fosters. That is another blog, for another time (though probably unnecessary). No, the issue here is that of knowing what you want out of your internet, and then working to get it. I'm a firm believer that the internet doesn't have to be a black hole of distraction and lost time; but navigating it responsibly is a difficult thing, so I try to help myself as best as I can.
I've long been a proponent of Twitter as an alternative to the Facebook micro-blogging tool, as Twitter wisely focuses on what is being said while all but eliminating who is saying it (although, inevitably, 99% of people seem to use Twitter exactly as they do Facebook - 3rd person updates about their lunch, etc.) My views on this are strongly influenced by Rands' article about proper tweeting, and how to make the most out of it. The long and short of it is: Sure, you can now let your friends and family know exactly what you're doing any minute of the day. But why should anyone care? And why is it worth sharing in the first place? But the digression continues.
I'd go it one further and put forth that for those already sold on Twitter, a beautiful application like Tweetie is the way to go - simple, elegant design, completely eliminating the need to even open the web browser. It delivers content, and nothing more. Beautiful.
And this is where Facebook loses me.
The purported strength of online communities, as best I can tell, is that they allow you to stay connected to people you might otherwise be unable to. This is a noble cause. However, whatever its intentions, what I see happening more and more on Facebook runs something like this: People update snippets about their daily lives, others comment on them (or 'like' them. What?), and the whole thing becomes this surreal, almost high school-esque drone. Almost nothing is actually said, and it is said all day, every day.
I understand that a lot of people like Facebook for this very reason, but as I said earlier, this is about figuring out what works for each individual, and for me it's somewhat frustrating. I don't usually think to share details of my daily life; how much more valuable is it to offer some insight that might reach someone out there in the ether, and in turn make their life a little bit better? Much as it feels like it sometimes, the internet is hardly a void. And don't even get me started on the influx of pointless quizzes that have spread throughout Facebook like a cicada plague lately; again, well and good if people like them, but from where I'm sitting it all adds up to distraction, and that isn't why we're here.
The final nail in the coffin came in the form of Tumblr. It serves the simple purpose of being a platform for short, multimedia updates (as opposed to this blog, which does just fine for these lengthier missives), and it allows complete customization (as well as a simple, tasteful UI) that makes sharing content easy and attractive. I am sold.
The downside to Tumblr, they all say, is the absence of a Comments feature. It is one-sided, narcissistic. Yelling into the void. Perhaps, I answer.
But the counter to that is twofold: First, there is this here blog, with its comment-friendly nature and a link to actual contact information. Second, in the land of Facebook, where the comments fly free and easy, how much communication is actually going on anyway?
I aim to document, and share what I find. I figure that's the best any of us can do by our friends on the internet. And RSS is your friend, folks.
You know where to find me.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Oh, internet. How you entangle.