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Monday, May 21, 2007

Social networking - why?

I read a very amusing article in the Guardian today, by Charlie Brooker - I'm socially inept, but I joined Facebook anyway. It amused me, because I've found myself asking, more and more, what the heck is the point of a social networking site? Surely they're more bother than the worth of them?

I joined MySpace a while ago, and initially didn't find it too bad. I'd joined to network with other writers. A few template tweaks and a strongly-worded profile, meant I was able to hide personal details such as age and gender, and also, keep at bay cyber-Lotharios. All well and good. For a while. Then, I made the mistake of including my MySpace profile's URL in my signature on a music forum I'm a member of. Bad move.

Without going into too much detail, I briefly became friendly with a woman on there who proved to be an absolute nut job. I realised, very quickly, that she was unhinged, so I broke off correspondence. This woman is dangerously obsessed with the well-known personality who owns the forum, and as far as I'm concerned, there's a difference between being a fan, and being insanely obsessed. One is good, and one is very, very bad. To cut a long story short, I, and several other forum members had hideous problems with this person, via email and the site's personal messaging system. We complained to the management. It transpired she had also caused a great deal of trouble for the celebrity concerned, and some of those closest to them. Harassing other fans was the final straw, and it got her permanently excluded.

As she could no longer contact me via this forum, or email [I deleted the Google account in question], she waged a unilateral war of words against me on MySpace, as I think she holds me 100% responsible for her ejection from her beloved's forum. I refused to bite back, even though her blog entries were often littered with direct or indirect snipes at me, interspersed with how much she loves this particular celebrity. I found it hilarious, to be continuously mentioned in the same breath as one of my favourite celebs. Anyway, where am I going with this, you may well ask?

Well, threads appeared on the forum, warning about fake MySpace profiles being created for the celebrity and one of their close friends. I made the mistake of mentioning I'd had one or two bizarre friend requests. Well, the bizarre requests escalated, immediately after the nutty woman used her blog to mock my comment about the strange requests. I was constantly being sent messages and friend requests by really kinky people. I had all sorts of sordid offers, from swingers, sado-masochists, fetishists and whatever. I knew the mad bitch was behind it all, but couldn't prove it.

So I decided to relieve myself of MySpace once and for all. It's been almost a month now, and I've not missed it one little bit. I've just realised - why the hell would I want to network with a bunch of unknown, uncheckable strangers? One of them could easily be the next Ian Huntley or Peter Sutcliffe, masquerading behind a facade of camaraderie and normality. Do I want them knowing which town I live in, and what I look like? No, I bloody well don't.

But worse than any potential danger, is the tedium of it all. Why waste time wading through friend requests from people who, in real life, you probably wouldn't pee on if they spontaneously combusted right before your very eyes? You know, as soon as the request comes through, that 99% of the time, it's either from a MySpace junkie who compulsively adds every profile they come across, just to boost their friend numbers, or from someone who has a product to sell, now or in the near future. It's all so false and self-seeking. The nutty woman did me a favour. She helped me see through the hype, and realise that MySpace is populated by huge volumes of socially inept, pathetic inadequates who live their whole lives in cyberspace, creating fake personas to bolster their self-woven fantasies.

If you use social networking, don't let it take over your life - and be very, very careful what you make public about yourself. If your kids use social networking - make sure you know the password to their account and can check out all their activities and connections. You just never know who is pretending to be their friend right now. As far as I'm concerned, MySpace, Facebook, and other such sites, are a complete waste of time and effort.

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