Socialising Without Meeting People

Posted Thursday, February 11, 2010, 10:45 AM


I value my solitude. I like the quiet, insular, solitary life I have made for myself. Sometimes I miss a little bit of interaction with others, but I could happily stay indoors and never meet another living soul for days at a time, with no ill effects.

Eventually I know I need to get out there and talk to someone, it's unavoidable, but I try to keep it minimal, enough to keep me happy, and then I can get back into my solitude again.

I don't even like talking on phones. The awkward pauses, the lack of a face to gauge expressions and intent, the crappy reception quality, the inability to do anything else at the same time without it being seriously inconvenient.

Link: 10 Reasons to Avoid Talking on the Phone

That's why I like email as a way to interact instead - it gives me the time to say things clearly, rewrite, rearrange, attach images or links, and generally express myself comfortably. Unfortunately, most of the people I email are really bad at responding to them at all, let alone to every point I need a response about. Maybe three of my regular correspondents give me good emails in return, the rest are horrible at it. Or they can't spell, which also gets on my nerves sometimes.

It seems email is not going to be the primary choice for communication in the future, like I would have expected. For one thing, mobile phones are more prevalent than they ought to be, and still dominate as the method of choice to talk to others. Much to my annoyance.

I do like to use instant messaging. Back in the late 90s, I joined up to ICQ and have been using that ever since. It was really big and popular, at the time, and I "met" a lot of people, some of whom became great friends. However, Instant Messaging has taken a tumble, replaced by SMS texting and Twitter.

I also regularly post on discussion forums, but it's rare to establish a decent community of regulars that way. You'll make friends, perhaps, or at least acquaintances, but generally it's just a big miasma of faceless names, each easily mistaken for another, and also more prone to serious confrontational arguments. This is where flame wars began, and sometimes they can be so serious the forums have to be shut down entirely.

The impending arrival of the live version of Google Wave may make some impact on online communication, as it seems to be a way to concatenate all existing forms of chat into one system with ultimate adaptability and control over how you involve others. But I don't think it's social media as much as corporate. It behaves more like a chat room or virtual meeting, but using existing, recognisable methods like email and instant messaging to interactively communicate with large groups, so it will be perfect for meetings, or discussions, but not so good as a social networking tool.

The two biggest social networking and communication tools currently in action, though, are Twitter and Facebook. I have not joined either, but the world and everyone in it is desperate to get me to be a part of both. And I am wondering if my reluctance to join is justified, and if I should give up on my stubborn refusal, as there may be some small benefits.

I still hesitate.

Every new buzzword widget that gets put out there tries to be the next big thing, and I am always wary. I have seen too many of them burn up and die, usually very soon after ignition, or more likely just after someone like me joins them at long last only to see they missed its peak and it is about to tumble into the abyss of forgotten nothingness.

I am lucky in that has never been me, but other people, though I have witnessed it happen. I can usually predict the inevitable failures with 80% accuracy, so stay away from them. MySpace, for example, I could see would inevitably fall by the wayside. It's no longer the phenomenon it once was, mostly brought on by its horrendously revolting interface and unacceptably bad HTML.

Facebook, on the other hand, was pretty, and gentle on the eyes, and had some actual substance behind its fa├žade. Though I haven't joined it, I at least saw that it had a better future ahead of it. Except, as so often happens, they've started to change some of the fundamentals, and there are rumbles amongst the faithful. If they don't fix some of these issues soon, it could all collapse.

Facebook's singular purpose seems to be to hook up with long lost friends and catch up on what they're all doing with their lives, maybe renew friendships, or make new ones through a chain of "people who know people". I can't see that being very appealing. I moved to Australia to get away from my old life, I don't want to expose myself to them all again. It's almost intrusive. But having said that, there are some friends I truly miss, and wish I could hang out with them again, or at least touch base. I am almost tempted.

Twitter seems to be a way for strangers to talk nonsense, and hopefully occasionally one of them will say something profound with their 140 characters and they'll become a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon for 15 minutes, which might lead to a book deal and an appearance on The View with Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg. I am not a very profound person, especially in 140 characters. My humour is usually absurd or esoteric, my contributions minor and inconsequential. I am a quiet achiever, and don't usually say much in a conversation between more than three people, though I am absorbing everything. I'm not sure if I'd involve myself much.

However. My life is currently in a state of flux. I am running out of money, so I need work - website designs, visual effects, or even writing if I am lucky. Where do I find the people who can help me get those kinds of jobs?

It seems to me I need to network. Socially.

Aha.

Maybe I should join them after all; maybe that's where I'll find my next step in my working and social life that I need to survive.

I think I may have succumbed. But hopefully it's for the right reasons.

2 Reasoned Responses:

Dags said...

I'm a hearin' you on this one. :)

Phones - despise them, like you it's the awkward silence that occurs during a talk when no one is saying anything that puts me on edge. For this reason I feel that I have to speak all the time to avoid that situation which is not pleasant.

I actually know this dude who was notorious for ringing people up and after you'd pick up the phone he'd announce "I'm just calling to say hello" and then he wouldn't say anything forcing you to then make the conversation! ARGH.

It's also a reason why I prefer to speak to an answer machine rather than a person sometimes.

I also agree that email is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Like you forming words on the screen which can be crafted to reflect what you're trying to say is a very appealing way to communicate.

Finally, I'm kinda hoping that of the three people you communicate with via email often - where good responses to questions along with good spelling takes place - that I'm one of them :)

Dags

GuanoLad said...

You most certainly are, my friend. Top of the list, in fact.

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