Your efforts to connect me are unwelcome.

August 6, 2010

The internet continues to massively overestimate my interest in people I don’t know, partly because it refuses to get to know me as an individual.

Guess what, Twitter? When I go to a menu called “Retweets”, the absolute last question on mind is the complicated and distant what-do-the-people-I-follow-think-is-worth-repeating. Let’s face it, I’m looking exclusively for what people think of MY output. And so are millions of other Twitter users – why make us feel bad about that? It feels like the imposition of some bizarro morality. The contrast with what we really want to use these things for just feels like a judgment.

Hey you, Facebook! I see you trying to sneak out the back there, but you’re just as bad. I don’t care what a load of strangers think of someone’s status who I barely know. I once ticked ‘like’ and what do I get in return? URGENT RED UPDATES every five seconds that SOMEONE I DON’T KNOW has left a COMMENT on some Facebook update written by SOMEONE I BARELY KNOW last month.

I don’t care if I can turn all this maddening rubbish off. The point is I shouldn’t have to.

And now WordPress is giving me all this ‘Be the first to like this post!’ shit. Here’s the thing. I just don’t care about what total strangers have to say about other total strangers. Strangers who have nothing in common with me other than that we both once looked at the same website. Why would anyone ever imagine that was useful information to me? Let alone IMPORTANT and URGENT?

Internet… you can drop your ‘recommendations’ and your ‘notifications’ and all your push pushing of the gurning faces of people I am at best not interested in and at worst deliberately avoid. It’s not your job to match me up with everyone else who has ever had any contact with everyone else in the world.

I like my existing friends, and they’re real friends too – not what the internet-brain imagines friends are. The internet-brain thinks my friends and I compete to “be the first to fave” things. And the internet’s approach to friendship is skewed by the relentless competition for money. How about we give this ridiculous trend a rest for a bit. How about letting people find their own contacts online? If you don’t build it, they will come. And build it.

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4 Responses to “Your efforts to connect me are unwelcome.”

  1. Beano Says:

    The 1960s were a time of great upheaval and change. We are now in another such time in which people are struggling with new choices.
    What is an internet friend? I dropped out of Facebook after a good try. I went underground on Twitter. I follow the sciences and the arts so I can learn. I struggled with idea that maybe my followers did not want my Tweets!
    I have 4 Internet friends that all have different relationships with me. One shares her life turmoil and angst with me. One sends me things that I would not look for on my own. One lives in the Toronto where I was born. We exchange our thoughts and photographs but not our troubles. One lives in London and I just enjoy her adventures. None of us will ever meet. This type of friendship is not the same as friends I have in person. Sometimes the difference blurs. I don’t want to shut myself off from my local world by building a wall to keep people away and sink into the notion that my internet friends are sufficient. I am friends with many animals. They are real friends too. I think we live in a time when we can choose how to use the internet in ways that make us happy and quench our thirst for knowledge. We can choose what our internet friends mean to us… or not.

    • Beano Says:

      I am hopeless replying to my own reply. I left out something. The 1990s reminded me of the 60s because music improved to my ear.
      Also people started to have an increased sense of social justice again. It was when the internet shifted gears over and over again and got better and better.

  2. Paul Says:

    I can see where you’re coming from, and I agree, certainly, if the company (or more likely the marketing forces of the company) are shoving the recommendation part of things in your face. Certainly one of the lessons I feel we all need to learn about the current explosion of use in things like Twitter, Facebook etc is that it’s not about social networks, it’s about networks in general, and the ability of the Web to externalise & extend the human capability to form networks in our brains. Social networks aren’t the be-all and end-all of the Web, they’re just one form of informational network.

    Where I think I disagree slightly therefore is that it’s not the suggestion/recommendation functionality which is the problem, it’s the language surrounding it and the techniques used to push this at users. For instance, the Twitter ‘Who to Follow’ – really bad choice of language there, but I don’t actually mind the functionality. If it was constantly sending me emails insisting that I follow people, or even automatically following them for me, now that would be annoying. But as a little box on the web interface, it can easily be ignored -and would probably garner much less negative reaction and put some language around it which was much more friendly and in keeping with the rest of the service. What it’s really trying to be is “if you’re looking for new people to follow, or if you’re bored, here’s some suggestions of people we think you might like to follow, based on who you currently follow. It’s just a suggestion, take it or leave it. Good day.”

    But of course, that wouldn’t be very snappy 😉


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