USA Today reports that people are walking away from their social media networks. In fact, you can now pay for services that will scrub your identity from the internet. Freedom for the Mac will disconnect you for up to 8 hours at a time.
According to the USA article by della Cava, the common theme for the exodus is “the nagging sense that a time-sucking habit was sucking the ‘real’ out of life.” She quotes Leanna Fry who says, “I’ve discovered I don’t need to know what hundreds of people are doing. Now I have time for the people who really matter in my life.”
Personally I use Twitter to keep up with some of those people who really matter, and to share relevant links about advertising and journalism with current and former students. And I announce new entries on my blog. But Twitter itself is becoming one big spam machine. I have over 1000 followers on my professional account, mostly people trying to sell things to people who are trying to sell things to them.
On Facebook the problem is clutter. An old college friend told me he was about to quit because of all the people who wanted help on their farm. I explained how he could “hide” certain applications and he went home to get rid of all the Farm, Aquarium and Mafia requests.
Other people take different approaches to this overload problem. One of my sons has 72 unanswered friend requests. And I know lots of people who are “defriending” distant or unnecessary friends.
Checking Facebook less often is another approach. A woman in our church has a sister-in-law who is quite upset when she doesn’t respond to her on Facebook immediately, which is difficult since she now only checks it once a month. I update my status with Twitter but often look at Facebook just once or twice a week, although I am notified if someone writes on my wall.
The clutter recently spawned a “I don’t care about your pony” fan page, which had 4 million fans in just a few days, at one point picking up 40 new fans a second. Actually I had a draft of this post, with this title, two weeks ago, before the fan page started. The gist of it? Seriously, folks, it’s not a real pony.
But not only do I not care about your pony I don’t care about your “I don’t care about your pony” fan page. I tend to ignore all requests, both for games and causes, the same I way I ignore forwarded emails. And if someone is particularly annoying I “hide” them.
Life is short and I can’t be a part of every cause, and just accepting an invitation is no way to solve actual problems. Real problems require real solutions, real causes require real sacrifices, and real ponies require real work.
Community can exist online, but it’s not a game. It requires shared values and thoughtful communication. Even a little restraint. Here’s how Proverbs 25:17 puts it:
Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house,
lest he have his fill of you and hate you.
This is true, even if it’s a virtual foot. And especially if it’s a virtual pony.