Mar 312015

Every now and again, I get some invite to join some social network or to “Confirm I know ${PERSON}”.  It doesn’t really matter what platform you choose, the end result is the same.

There are a couple of reasons I do not participate on these systems.

Number one is that when I get home, I typically cannot be stuffed having much to do with computers.  Sure I’ll be checking what news has happened during the day, I have an RSS aggregator for that.  I’ll check what the weather is doing tomorrow (as a cyclist, this is of high importance).  I’ll check emails, as that is how I keep in touch with people (I know, how quaint, but it works).

Maybe check some public forums/newsgroups.  That’s about it.  I really cannot be stuffed doing much else having fought with computers all day, I’m really not in the mood when I get home.

Second reason is the nature of these social networks.  Much of the interaction happens behind the scenes.  You’re “sharing” to an audience behind closed doors.  That audience has to be a member of that same group to even see your material.  Don’t believe me?  Try to log into Facebook and then go “Friend” a Google+ user and share something with them.  Or how about go log into Google+ and “circle” (is that the term?) a Linked In user.  These new-breed “social” networks are about as anti-social as it gets.

They’re today’s bulletin board system.  I’m sorry, are we really abandoning the World Wide Web for what’s little more than a BBS?  About the only difference I see is that JavaScript and HTML5 replace the ANSI/DEC escape sequences of old.  It’s still an isolated silo from which your information is locked in and only those who have opted into that network can participate.

A forum can be publicly viewed in most cases, in fact forums generally have trouble attracting an audience if they’re not publicly visible.

Finally there’s the privacy.  Sharing what you’re doing in your day to day life is one thing.  You can share a lot without giving much away personally.  “Friend”-ing people however is basically uploading your social graph, one link at a time.  One’s social graph is one of the most personal things one can expose about themselves, and increasingly the privacy policies of these social networks have been found lacking in several aspects.

Companies have been working on sophisticated ways in order to search and map out these social graphs, they would not be doing this if there wasn’t financial incentive to do so.  Knowing who someone’s friends are is the first step in being able to manipulate that person.  I’d rather not be someone’s puppet.

There’s also the phishing risk.  They’re popular sites to try and spoof.  I recently received one alleging to be from The Register author Simon Rockman.  It could be authentic, but then again, anyone could sign up for an account on one of these social network, claim to be someone they’re not, and try to lure you in.  I’ve got no way of verifying this, and with a broken “Reply-to” header, in the bin it goes.

So, next time you think of putting my email address in to a form on a social network page to invite me to join, don’t bother.  I do respond to emails, I even respond to comments left here (unless they’re spam), but I will not respond to social network invites, in fact I may not even receive them.