Chasing The Social Networking Monster

   I quit Facebook, because I was concerned about the gathering up of, collating, and then profiting from, personal information available on the Internet.  Not that my personal info hasn’t been out there for years.  It has.   No, this was more a protest move on my part, just letting the Facebook people know that I can live without them.   I know, I know, they have more than 800-million users (per Wikipedia), so they could care less about me.  I get it.  But you know what?  I don’t care about them either and I’ve been just fine without Facebook.  Well, I do feel a bit cut off but the feeling is diminishing with the passage of time.   While I admire the role FB played in the Arab Spring, and is currently playing in bringing Israeli and Iranian folk together in a push to avoid war, I continue to have reservations about the move by third party companies to gather information on us and then sell our profiles to private business or academia — or others.  It’s just a nasty development, and something that somebody will eventually need to deal with or any semblance of privacy will be erased — and we’re well on our way.

Then there’s Twitter.   I’ve been using it to send out tweets alerting my massive base of followers (120) about my latest posts so that no one need feel threatened with missing any of my incredible insights.   Just today I discovered that people have been tweeting me back.   Some to comment on my writing and others just to say hello.  I wasn’t aware any of that was happening, so if I’ve ignored your re-tweets, or connect-tweets or whatever they’re called, it wasn’t intentional, I just haven’t invested an adequate amount of time to master the Twitter process.  Not sure I will.  I don’t even have an iPhone.  Don’t want one.   I almost never text.  If I have something that’s worth saying, I’ll call someone and say it.  Don’t have an iPad, either.  I don’t understand it.  Why bother with an iPad and a separate keyboard, why haul around all that stuff, when micro computers are available?  Yes, yes, I know iPads have an electronic keyboard.  I also know they don’t compare to the real thing.  That’s why companies are making add-on keyboards (real keyboards), for iPad users.

And we mustn’t forget so-called “Cloud Computing.”  It is, after all, a sort of social networking, offering to feed you apps and various services while storing your formerly personal information out there on a “cloud” (somebody else’s hard drive) floating somewhere in cyberspace for a monthly fee, as opposed to the sanctity of your very own hard drive sitting behind your firewall, protected by your anti-virus.  At least that’s what it seems to be right now.  It’s difficult to pin it all down as the definition of what Cloud Computing actually is appears to be in a state of flux.

What will those clever devils come up with next?  In the words of Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com,  “Your personal information is the new oil.” 

I keep hearing Tom Petty in my head.  It’s his lyric that goes, “How much you’ll pay for what you used to get for free.”  (Add the ringtone to your cell phone for a small fee.)

Before Facebook and iPads, there was LinkedIn.   I’m there, but I only occasionally check my account.  I’m sure there are any number of things I could do with that too, if I chose to invest the time and effort.  But again, I choose not to.   There is so much of this stuff out there.  You’ve gotta draw a line somewhere, or you’ll spend all your waking hours online, tweeting, re-tweeting, Facebooking and updating your LinkedIn account, not to mention that new note-posting thing.

But there is an upside.  There’s a wonderful new form of entertainment out there and it’s absolutely free.  It’s watching the kids at the mall, doing a re-creation of George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” bumping their way along, threatening to crash into anything that might be in their way as they insist upon texting and walking at the same time creating a very real pedestrian traffic hazard.  Ever wonder how much of what they’re texting has any real value?  How much of their social media addiction represents something they and (or) their parents now pay for but which they “used to get for free?”

Something that isn’t really needed at all?

When was the last time you read a book?  Not an “eBook” mind you, a book made of wood pulp.  Something with paper pages and covers?  I recently picked up a copy of “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown.    I must admit his stuff is getting to be a little formulaic, following “Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons,” both of which were set in Europe.  This time Brown brings master symbologist Robert Langdon home, chasing symbols and their accompanying mysteries here in the United States, making it a fun read even if it’s takes us down a familiar path with an ending that’s a little difficult to buy into.  Well, no more difficult, I guess, than the Camerlingo rocketing a bomb-laden helicopter high above the Vatican, where he straps on a parachute and jumps to safety just before the anti-matter hits the matter and the universe hits the fan.  I didn’t buy that either, but I enjoyed “Angels and Demons” nevertheless.  You can be sure “Lost Symbol” will eventually be made into a film, begging the question of how many people are thinking, “I’ll wait for the movie.”  No time to sit down and read a book, what with all those social media sites to update, clouds to coordinate with, tweets and re-tweets to be seen to and a pile of text messages that demand to be answered.

If you’ve been tweeting me and I haven’t responded it’s not because I was snubbing you.  It wasn’t that at all.  I’ve neglected the demands of social networking on the Internet for the alternative activity of reading a book.   And other analog activities.  A guy’s gotta draw a line somewhere.  Putting it another way, at some point you need to stop texting and look up or you’re liable to walk right off the edge of a cliff — and it could be a long drop to the bottom.

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