Dr. Voyeurism, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Twitter

I’ve been thinking a lot about social networking lately, partly because my job deals with it, partly because I’ve got some Obsessive-Compulsive tendencies. Then Mostly Lisa wrote about the “big three”Twitter, Pownce, and Facebook, according to her—and got them back to the front of my mind.

A sample of my Twitter profile. My user name is 'urbaneexistance'.I have a love-hate relationship with social networks. I love some of them (Twitter, Last.fm) and hate others (Facebook, MySpace). And because I’m coldly rational (thank you, Math Degree) I’ve been trying to figure out what it is that attracts or repulses me from these things.

I joined Facebook fairly early. I went to a big school so we had it within a few months of the public releases. I checked it several times a day. I was the first person I knew to use the “Photos” application. I got pissed with the “Visualize My Network” option disappeared, and even moreso at the Minifeed, before I found out I needed it.

I even weathered the addition of high school students. But then Facebook got hit hard with the Applications/NoNetwork Super Special (wait till the energy bar is full then it’s punch-punch-down-downforward-forward-punch-back-let-in-everyone). All of a sudden Facebook lost its exclusivity, but more importantly it lost it’s unifying theme. When it was just college students, or even just high school and college students, you knew you had at least one thing in common with everyone else.

I half-heartedly tried MySpace but it was too noisy. After a few friend requests from people I didn’t know and real, penis-enlarging spam on the bulletin board, I left.

Somewhere in there I signed up on Last.fm, which I can’t live without. It’s completely noiseless—in my experience, anyway—and has helped me find all sorts of new music.

I’ve quit Facebook twice. Both times for the same reason: no sense of community. (In the brief re-Facebooked period, I just had it aggregate my blog, Twitter, Last.fm, etc.) I quit MySpace because of too much noise and no sense of community. I stay on Last.fm because everyone there listens to enough music to care about it. I stay on Twitter because it’s mostly Web-2.0-type-savvy people.

What draws me, what keeps me interested, what helps me tolerate noise, is community—or rather some commonality. It gives me a starting point for the “social” part of social networking.

The big networks, the Facebooks, the MySpaces, the Bebos, don’t interest me, because I have nothing in common with them. It’s like being introduced to someone with no sort of background or any idea what to talk about. It doesn’t work because I’m very awkward.

What do you think about the various social networks? What makes one appealing and one frustrating?