Mark Atwood (fallenpegasus) wrote,
Mark Atwood

I meet people. Social network usage costs.

I meet people.

I'm not innately good at it, and I'm often not exceptionally confident while I do it. I meet interesting people at social events in my social circles here in Seattle. I meet friends of friends, I meet people at geek gatherings, I meet people in "hallway tracks" at conferences, and I meet people in purely business and professional settings.

Because I am not innately skilled at remembering people immediately after meeting them, I collect business cards, personal cards, and/or make notes about the people I meet that are interesting. And then transfer that information into my address book. And in my address book, I make a little note of how I met that person, and why they are interesting enough to me to record. And now a process of technological progress and making things easier, starts hitting social problems and scaling problems.

All this new social network technology, by making being "social" easier, are also making important parts of it harder.

My Mac address book syncs to my Google Contacts. Which syncs to my Android phone. So that nearly everyone who has given me a business card that I am interested in, shows up when I scroll around in my phone. Which can be convenient, but as the number of people rise, this is starting to get somewhat annoying.

And the various social networking sites I am involved in often have "discover friends on this service from your Google address book". Which is convenient, and yet... Each time I do this, as newly entered people get matched, I have to remember who they are to approve them. I have the note in my address book, but the only thing that gets displayed when doing the match/approve UI process is their name and/or email address. If I'm lucky, a personal icon (which many people, being "funny", don't have set to a photo of their face). So matching and approving social network links imposes a mental cost. And my own inclination to check people off for requesting said linkage is often different from moment to moment.

There are, in fact, people in my address book who I specifically do not want any contact with, in real life and online. And seeing them go by when I do this process imposes a mental and emotional cost.

And then, once I've added a social networking link, the news and activity feeds grow in volume, and it takes time to mentally process them. And handling the problem that some people tweet all the minutia of their life, and/or topics about their life that are not the parts of their life that I found interesting about them in the first place. Or they use Flickr as an image dump. And the process of muting those parts of my news stream also takes mental effort, the kind that is hard for me because it's got huge amounts of social/relationship processing, and many social network systems don't even have a good way to mute things, other than completely "unfriend" them. (This is why, for example, I wish that Twitter clients had killfiles, and that they did something like Google Reader, where data sources that are less "chatty" sort higher in the to-read list.)

And then comes the issue that there are parts of my life that are wisely separated, but as the various social networking sites attain traction and the social exit cost rises, they change their technology, polices, and UIs, in ways that blur stuff together, for their own bald faced interest. (And they flat out lie about their interests when called on it. (Yes, I'm talking about Facebook here.) There are parts of my life that are best kept somewhat separated, starting with personal interests vs professional business topics, and then going into all sorts of twisty grey subcatagories of each.

And now comes Buzz, which takes all these issues, and turns it up to 11.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

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