I was thinking the other day about the whole social networking thing – and yes, I did post a bit about the follower/not following issue a few weeks ago. (And it apparently hit a nerve because I had quite a few comments, so clearly it’s something that affects a lot of people.)
But I took a look this morning at who I’m following this morning. Over 1700 people on Twitter. 745 friends on Facebook. Over 300 on Tumblr. I’ve sorta given up on Google Plus, but these numbers don’t include RSS feeds or blogs or GetGlue or LinkedIn or FourSquare or the million mailing lists I’m on or any of those other places that I’ve somehow gotten ensnared with.
And I guess it sort of rolls back to the “author needing to build a platform” thing. We follow some people because we find them interesting, or maybe hope for a mutual follow back. (Which happens a lot in writer circles – we’re really all a bit incestuous in some ways, even if most of us are all saying the same thing.)
But on thinking about it – back in the “old days” – when I was a kid in the 80’s, social circles were much smaller. Before cell phones and chat rooms and all the rest of the electronic claptrap, you were sort of limited to people you’d actually met or were in your community. (Or perhaps the pen pal? Remember those?) So by necessity, you formed bonds with people you interacted with.
Advantages and disadvantages to this, of course. My circle was always on the small side because I was a hopeless nerd. There is always a part of me that will be a tad envious at the younger generations right now, simply because there are so many ways to reach out across the world to talk to like-minded people. I suspect I wouldn’t have been as lonely as I was, but that’s just the way things were.
But the flip side now is complete overload. Instead of really getting to know people, we become familiar with facets. And you can argue that you really only know what sides people choose to show you, but face to face interaction reveals a shitload more than 140 characters ever will.
That’s not even really the point of this post, though. It’s more about sensory overload for me. It’s just so much. So many people talking about so many things – useful things, silly things, stupid things. It’s hard for me to categorize them sometimes…and harder for me to shut it off, but sooner or later I lose track and what might have been an important item to me gets lost in the incessant droning of who’s eating what for lunch.
(And that’s not a poke at anyone – I tweet what I’m eating about all the time. But some days feel more hollow than others, I guess.)
I’ve got my inner circle of peeps that I always keep in touch with, and that’s one thing…but some days I hate the obligation I feel to give everyone a congratulations on an accomplishment or a sorry for something bad. And it’s not that I don’t care – I *do* care, very much – but there has to be a line, too – particularly when it comes to balancing these interactions with those of my personal life and family.
It’s just difficult not to get caught up in the moment, but I find myself wanting to withdraw more and more from it all as time goes on.