The Not-So User Experience of Social Networking

I got a message from Facebook today. Someone indicated I am “hot” in one of those “Compare” applications. I accepted this word graciously offered to me and clung to it like a cat pouncing a mouse.

Facebook has been interesting to explore. MySpace has a cluttered, chaotic user interface that confuses the hell out of me. Facebook is organized and loaded with more ways to connect with and keep track of friends. Not a day goes by where someone is stuck in a bus or elevator, having a terrible day, promoting a blog post, breaking up, or matching me in my taste for food, sex, life, movies, books, and what I’d do if I could start all over again in life.

If you’re sensitive, not being voted as “hot”, “most desirable”, “pretty”, “handsome”, “most want to date” or “best hair” can ruin your week. Facebook can boost your ego and kick it down. Since I’ve never been voted “hot” before, I’ve had some days where this really ticked me off. Am I too old? Am I not pretty enough? Am I fat?

And then there’s Twitter. I gave it a shot. I don’t think I’m cut out for it. You see, when I “talk” to somebody by name, and they don’t respond to me, I wonder what I did to deserve being ignored. Not everyone is on Twitter when you are. Chances are, I didn’t do anything to be snubbed, but communication online may not be what human beings were designed to do.

Not me, anyway.

I’m one of those energy and vibration persons. For me, I get more information by what’s not spoken. I do the soul-to-soul, look into a person’s eyes kind of contact. For me, the Internet has always been a constant communication lesson. It’s also an experiment in how or if I will adapt.

Maybe it’s younger people raised on the Internet who need less human touch to understand another person?

I’m old school, from the days of hippies and wild, vibrant colors. I hug. I touch. I ask tons of questions of someone who fascinates me. When I really like someone, it’s because I admire something about them and want to learn whatever they’re willing to teach me. This may be why I’ve kept Cre8asiteforums going for so long (it debuted in 1998 in an earlier form). I can’t physically sit with all the people I want to know but I appreciate whatever they’re willing to type and share.

In a forum, people develop a sense of community. They bond. In Facebook and Twitter, I don’t sense this same feeling. In Facebook, for example, there is a Top Friends application. If someone claims you are a “top friend” and you don’t even know them, what do you do? With Twitter, there are “followers” and those you “follow”. You don’t have to follow those who follow you, but if you don’t, doesn’t that feel rude?

And then there’s times when you had a Facebook or Twitter friend, and they suddenly dump you. How do people today define “Friend”?

For me, a friend is someone who talks to me and doesn’t make me guess what the hell is going on. In real life, friends can sit with you. You can look at them. See their face. Study their vibe. You can tell when something’s up. Not online. It just was never intended to work that way.

Sometimes I think I’m not cut out for the Internet. It’s far too easy to be misunderstood when the thing that separates you from another person is a keyboard. Even a user interface can put roadblocks in your way. Twitter doesn’t allow emoticons to help express the meaning behind words, for example.

I can tell that I surprise some people when they meet me for the first time. I can be professional. I can be corny. I’ve noticed that some people will talk to me in person but won’t respond to me online. Mike Grehan recently wrote,

I remember arriving and bumping into the wonderfully warm and huggy Kim Krause (yes, the very same Kim Krause spotted on stage singing in a New York nightclub last week!).

It’s easy to be “warm and huggy” when I’m in a situaiton where I know that Kim won’t freak out anyone. I still make the mistake of touching a knee and scaring the crap out of the person because they’re not used to being touched. It’s not like I just jumped into their lap or anything. It’s a knee and I was likely laughing my head off at the same time, not drooling or begging for a wild night in bed.

Which brings me full circle back to Facebook and not being “hot” enough. How would anyone know if I am or not?

With social networking web sites, we can put up anything we want to. We can present any persona we want to. I like to mix my professional identity with the rest of me because in my work, much of me leaks in anyway. I really do care about the web sites I work on. I really do care about my clients and helping them. I really do appreciate their trust and faith in me. I’m loyal to my return clients and give them discounts. I really do refer my partners to companies seeking good help.

Clients don’t want me to be “hot” and I understand that being hot won’t bring me in new business. User generated content and feedback like games, comments, testimonials, and remarks about you are validating, however. Some days you just want to know you’re more than words on a page.

I often wonder about the “social” web and what we’re trying to create with it. I may never be satisfied with the Internet user experience.

It has yet to be able to give me a real live hug.

3 thoughts on “The Not-So User Experience of Social Networking

  1. <p>I was talking to a friend this morning about how women today (and some men) are more open about posting pictures of themselves in various modes of undress on the ‘Net. In MySpace, more profiles of women expose their breasts or more, for example. Walking the streets of any town, younger people show far more skin and body parts than ever.</p>
    <p>It just occurred to me that maybe the Internet-TV-ipod generation is so craved for human touch that in order to attract some kind of human validation of their existence, they’ve learned to resort to sex and nudity to arouse a response when outside among the physical world, because this is what they see online/TV/ipod.</p>
    <p>Anyone care to explore this topic?</p>

  2. Even if I can’t follow all your thoughts (why care about being [not] hot on Facebook?), I have to agree with what you said about friends. There is a huge difference between a real friend and an onlinefriend at Facebook.
    I have met less then 50% of my Facebook friends in real life and wouldn’t mind if I never get the opportunity to talk to them.

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