I spend my day mining the interweb. It’s what I do for a living — I’m looking for interesting nuggets of information about the machines that provide the information. It’s very meta — a concept which is an abstraction from another concept, used to complete or add to the latter.
In my travels today, I came across a column by my favorite science fiction writer, Corey Doctorow in Information Week. In the column, Doctorow weighed the merits of the ubiquitous social networking sites — MySpace, Friendster, Facebook — as a way to maintain real-world relationships:
Keeping track of our social relationships is a serious piece of work that runs a heavy cognitive load. It’s natural to seek out some neural prosthesis for assistance in this chore… Chances are you’re out-of-touch with more friends than you’re in-touch with: Old summer-camp chums, high-school mates, ex-spouses and their families, former co-workers, college roomies, dot-com veterans… Getting all those people back into your life is a full-time job and then some.
You’d think that Facebook would be the perfect tool for handling all this. It’s not. For every long-lost chum who reaches out to me on Facebook, there’s a guy who beat me up on a weekly basis through the whole seventh grade but now wants to be my buddy; or the crazy person who was fun in college but is now kind of sad; or the creepy ex-co-worker who I’d cross the street to avoid but who now wants to know, “Am I your friend?”
Definitely creepy indeed. But I see the true ills of social networking being much more banal than creepy people. It’s just a massive waste of time. Fascinating, if you’re an amatuer interweb anthropologist; lucrative if you’re a Web 2.0 data farmer; but primarily a big, fat zero on the betterment of humanity scale.
For example, 99% of the people who want to be my friend on MySpace are spambots, insultingly thinly disguised as attractive women who are interested in me. I’m not predicting Skynet is iminent, that our lives are going to be ruled by intelligent machines that turn on us. I’m saying our lives are going to be ruled by really dumb machines. How much time am I spending deleting naked lady spam on MySpace? Not much. But enough to make me worried.
How many people watched this video today? Like 400?
I’m just saying, watch this, and tell me we’re not doomed.