For me, the internet is a playground - a source of entertainment. I can connect with people who live far away. I can find amusing videos. I can read blogs. I can read the news. I can check the weather and find addresses and directions. You know that lost piece of information? The one about that one actor who was in the movie with the other guy? I can find that too. I have 4 email accounts. I have a Facebook account. I have a blog. I have Google Reader packed with stuff to read all day long. I love the internet and I don't know what I would do without it.
Lately, it seems that many people are finding the internet more of a burden than a pleasure. I've seen countless posts complaining about Facebook. I've seen lots of remarks about the pros and cons of Twitter. I've seen people agonizing over the "direction" of their blogs, and complaints about the "branding" that others are doing. And here's what it comes down to - people seem to have a certain level of expectations from the activities in which they participate on the internet. When those expectations are not met, they get upset about it.
Let's take email to start. In Jennifer's Head recently wrote Oh Compulsive Email Forwarder . I love her take on this. I have an email forwarder (or several) in my life. For me, it's a good way to know people are still alive. (I used to be a fairly prolific correspondent, but for every letter I sent out, I got zero in return.) I think forwarding jokes and warnings and such was a kind of rite of passage when you got an email account in years past. But there are those who find the forwarded joke a huge imposition. A friend of mine used to share her email account with her partner. Her partner (who is generally irritable anyway) blocked my email address because she felt I was forwarding too many jokes. Rather than requesting that I not forward things to her, she blocked communication between my friend and me. It's just email - the deletion of an email requires a click or two of the mouse. To get offended by it seems like an extreme reaction, which I don't really understand. In Jennifer's Head's post seems like my sort of reaction - a slightly sarcastic, mild rant laced with affection. Perfect.
And then there's Facebook. I love Facebook - it's a useless timewaster containing all sorts of entertainment in one place. I rarely update - most of the things you see on my wall are game results or requests. I post some pictures sometimes. I comment on others' posts all the time. I don't know much about the origins of Facebook (and I didn't see the movie). Based on my memory of the thought processes I had while in college, I doubt Facebook was meant to be taken as seriously as people take it today. I suspect it was supposed to be a way to find the parties on campus. It has morphed into a giant entity with so many facets...and for each facet I've found someone who finds it irritating. Post a status update complaining about anything? Someone will complain about it. Post a photo? You're either bragging or gloating or stupidly posting something inappropriate. Don't talk about your faith or lack thereof - it's offensive. Don't talk about your political preferences - it's offensive. Don't do anything that anyone else might disagree with - you'll be reviled. I'm not talking about STFU Parents or Failbook because those are snark, and snark is appreciated. But I can't think of a blog I've read that mentions Facebook that doesn't mention how the author hates it (OK, maybe one). I understand that it's venting, but I really haven't seen one person post about how they love facebook. I've never seen anyone post about how they love to play Farmville. I've never seen anyone post about how they like to see what people they don't see in person are doing. So here's me saying I love Bejewelled Blitz - especially when I can beat my sisters. I love arguing politics with the guy from high school who used to ride the same bus. I hate that one of my best childhood friends holds such wacky political beliefs but am thankful that I can watch her son grow up from afar. And for the rest of you...it's facebook. Please. Take it for what it's worth. Better yet, take it for what you pay for it. Whatever you do, don't take it so personally. And let me know if you play Gardens of Time - I need more neighbors. :)
Twitter is something that I really can't get into. It sounds attractive to a certain extent. It would be something to do with all the "Is it really necessary to block me in traffic EVERY morning, Mr. Plumber truck?" irritation I have. But all the angst over follower numbers, and the idea of sorting out hundreds of tweets a day, and the prevalence of marketing and spam all conspires to turn me off. I appreciate the quotes that I've read, but it seems like there is very little meat to Twitter. Or maybe there is very little wheat but bucketloads of chaff. And then I see that some people may not respond to comments, but do respond to tweets. That's when I think that Twitter is probably better than anything for establishing friendships, because it's much more like having a conversation. But in contrast, there's the opposite of relationship building, and so I stay away.
On to blogs. I'm not much of a blogger. I don't have that much to say, because I am unable to put my emotions on display. I would probably be better on Twitter, where my commentary would be limited. But for those days like today, when I want to go on and on, I love my blog. I love reading blogs. There's fascinating information, funny stories, giveaways, insights into other people and their lives - it's a gold mine...with veins of crap, sure, but there is so much good stuff out there. I feel honored that anyone reads anything I write, and my days would be completely boring if I didn't have so much stuff to read. (I suppose I could work harder, but what fun would that be?) Here's the thing about blogs, though - there seems to be a huge internal conflict among American bloggers. They want to be taken seriously. They want readership. They would really like to make some money from writing. But they don't want to be seen as commercial. I've seen articles from 3 Ways to Drive Blog Traffic From Major News Events (subject matter obvious) to Five Hundred and One (where the author is getting traffic but still feels unnoticed). I see laments about the sidetracking of blogging in favor of other social media. I think the thing that bothers me most, though, is what I perceive as jealousy of the bloggers who have "made it." I see people commenting about how those bloggers are all about their brand and promoting themselves. I'm sorry, but aside from a very few instances, every blog I've seen has been promoting the writer in some form. Fortunately, there are a few people out there, like this one and this one (had to link to that particular post because it's great), and even this one (her other blogs are not as selfless, thus the "even") who are trying to promote more than themselves. They try to promote community and education and connections between people. People like this show their support in tangible ways. So to the jealous ones, or the ones worried about their brand, I say take a look at what these people do. Brand is not as important as making your blog something admirable. Most of the people I read have that quality - I hope they can eventually take over the internet. And if they strike it rich in the meantime, more power to them.
To anyone who finds social media so oppressive, please be realistic in your expectations. You'll be much less irritated, and then maybe you can behold the internet in wide-eyed wonder again.
And if you'll excuse me, I have to go search for the best way to transfer 8mm film to video - eHow can tell me how, and eBay can probably provide me with discounted tools.