I won't social-network. Not online.
I was one of those who cheered the demise of the AOL model. I thought it was ridiculous that for years there was this parallel universe/gated community for Internet access. Did they really think they could compete with the WWW in all its glory?
If I remember correctly, outsiders could still access AOL content. But with Facebook, or Linkedln, there's a members-only aspect and that annoys me. This comes up most pointedly when I get an invitation from someone to join a social network. It usually comes at the busiest time of the year. Usually there isn't any return address. The only way to accept or decline is to register. What if the invitation may be from someone I haven't heard from in years -- I would actually have to register to acknowledge the invitation. I wonder whether the networks realize the awkward position this places a person in.
Of course -- at the risk of sounding like a John McCain or a curmudgeon -- I don't understand what these networks are really used for. I seem to be just fine with a telephone number and e-mail address for real-world contacts, and the blogosphere, for activism, journalism, ranting or lurking. When my computer is on, it is usually logged into some sort of Google or Blogger shell -- meaning among other things that my search results are archived for posterity at Google -- but rarely do I need to "poke" someone or "chat" with them.
I was a member of Orkut for a while, which is a social network that is popular in some countries. (It is big in Brazil and the joke is that Brazilians looking to score with Estonian women saw to it that it would be popular in Estonia.) All I ever got from joining Orkut, besides additional "friend invitations", were things like lost-dog postings. And it was good for birthday reminders.
The Orkut social network is named after a guy named Orkut who is himself a member, which to me is bizarre, but let's overlook that. You "collect" friends in Orkut, and the number of friends is very visible on your profile page.
I gave Orkut's network a shot, and after a while I started to think of people by the number of friends they had. Jaan wasn't Jaan anymore; he was Jaan (156). Not that I made any judgments on the basis of the number. I would see someone with just 1 or 2 "friends" and it was instantly obvious that he had probably been the victim of a unsolicited invitation -- being a nice guy with no other way of acknowledge the person, he had probably accepted it with a sigh and never logged in again.
On Orkut you could also rate your own friends from "best" to...I'd like to say "worst" but it probably wasn't that. This was again incompatible with adult world. I lived in constant fear of a worm that would reveal my ratings -- or what if Orkut himself sold the information -- so in the end I made my wife "best" and everyone else "very good", just to be on the safe side.
What I noticed was that after a while, the number of friends approached a constant. All the really popular people, the ones most active in sending lost-dog announcements, had about 260. At that point it didn't increase very much. At that point, just a Brazilian or two every once in a while. A lot of the 260 friends were the same, too. In fact the whole thing seemed redundant and pointless. The process of adding a "friend" wasn't completely automatic, either, so doing it 260 times represented a semi-significant time outlay.
Orkut himself, who must have been more of a cosmopolitan internationalite, had several thousand friends. He probably had to have a small staff to decline and accept the invitations. I sent him an invitation, so I could salt my page with more profile views, but he didn't get back to me. I still say this was either a) because I was a male, or b) because he wasn't Brazilian enough, but that's the only sour grapes I have to offer.
A bunch of you are probably using Facebook, and some have sent me invitations. I did explore the interface a while back, before I semi-accidentally forgot my password. I have heard rumours that it's be getting more public. For now I'm happy with Blogger, cafe Wifi, things like that. I don't need another shell account that starts when I start up.
But as always, let me know if I'm missing anything.
P.S. I don't watch movies on mobile phones either.