Monday, August 17, 2009

The Consequences: Ending Social Networks

In the last four years, social networking exploded into a multi-million dollar industry and is now looking at a dangerous decline. While experts ask why, their balding heads fail to understand the youthful minds fleeing the networks.

I still regularly use Facebook. MySpace I've avoided like the plague for years, and only occasionally drop by to say hello to some people I can't reach otherwise. Facebook is still useful, but there are reasons people are leaving, and I seek to address that here.

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Here's cause for the exodus:

+ Society does not differentiate weekends from weekdays.
The weekends are separate from weekdays, and it doesn't really matter what the hell you do on the weekend, so long you remain productive and uncompromisable during the week. Society does not share this opinion, particularly employers, parents, coaches, and school administrators.

The strongest reason users leave social networks is for employment. There's a common fear amongst job-seeking students that their future employers are perusing through their Facebook pictures looking for--god forbid--red cups. Facing the dire consequence of starving, students have left Facebook and MySpace altogether.

For those not looking to jobs, risks remain, particular those of Facebook pictures leaving and wandering into the eyes of parents and coaches. Generally, parents aren't too pleased seeing their children drinking, vomiting into a toilet after drinking, and drinking after vomiting into a toilet after drinking. After all, if Steve's mom is friends with someone who was tagged in an album with Steve in it, and that someone did not put up the privacy settings, Steve's mom can see the album. Steve is now grounded. Students who fear such repercussions fled social networks completely.

Additionally, school administrators have somehow acquired the right to punish students for things they do while not in school. No clue how that works, but just the same, if the school gets its hands on pictures of its students drinking, they will be punished.

The social networks can not stop these pictures from getting to unwanted eyes. No matter what safety nets social networks allow you to put up, it doesn't make a difference. It was once said when some encryption code for hacking DVDs or something was leaked that "getting something off the internet is like getting pee out of a pool." Pictures are the same way. Once something's on the Internet, it easily ends up everywhere and cannot be taken down. The best way to stop it is to keep it off the Internet in the first place, and the equivalent of holding one's bladder is staying off Facebook.

+ Petty Drama
Who cares if Janelle and Davey broke up and got together five or six times this week? Facebook will let you know, immediately. Stacey cut her toe on a rusty nail and is dying because of tetanus. Great. People use Facebook--myself included--to complain about shit that nobody cares about. Since there's nothing there but worthless bickering, who's going to be there at all?

+ You've Been Bitten! Join the Fight: Vampires vs. Zombies
Facebook introduced "applications" a year or so back. This was done to compete with MySpace--completely unnecessary--and draw in revenue--equivalent to selling-out to the man. The result of the development of applications was a large number of apps who's entire goal was get people to invite more people to the app. This produced a large number of "games" that aren't really games at all, but manual spam bots. Of course, each of these had a series of banner ads or were selling upgraded versions that did nothing new.

Not only did the games suck, but if you didn't accept, you'd likely find 60+ invitations in your user inbox telling you that you have pokemon or a secret waiting for you. If you did accept, your user page would be trashed with tacky, worthless boxes of rubbish no one cared about. Continually still, the games flood the newsfeed with "MICHAEL GOT A CHICEKN IN FARMVILLE. JOIN THE FARM FUN WIN BLUE RIBBINZ."

At least "Stacey is dying from tetanus" is entertaining.

+ Creepers
More afflicting women, Facebook--like any social network--is full of creepers. This risk was significantly lower when Facebook was an elitist student club, but since Facebook is available to the public, creepers run amok looking for women with whom they hope to couple. This doesn't even involve dinner and a movie, but centers around flat-out solicitations.
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I've considered MySpace dead for years, but a lot of these forces are new to Facebook, pushing a lot of users out with their novelty, and making the decline a series of business decisions by Facebook. Instead of relying on the solid product they had developed, they sought to expand earnings. It turns out that empathy for the users is a useful force in business after all.

Besides declining product quality, the very nature of social networks makes them vulnerable. No matter how elitist, all groups have creepers in them, being that the world has creepers, and any group is just a subgroup of the world. Additionally, the "pee-in-the-pool theory" of the Internet makes any information put on it impossible to take off, including pictures of yourself in the fetal position, covered in your own vomit.

People could take the existence of this information as a demonstration of the facts of life, but old people aren't ready to hear that and like to pretend that half their generation didn't smoke weed 40 years ago. Instead, we'll get to hear about how the youth are corrupt and how social networks "ruin lives."

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