Monday 24 August 2009

Non-productive internet time

The late great Douglas Adams once wrote "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so". In the 21st Century that could be amended to "Time is an illusion. Internet-time doubly so". You sit down at the computer for five minutes to catch up with a few things online, and you get up several hours later. Can you account for the time in between? Not in any satisfactory or meaningful manner.

My two biggest culprits for non-productive time spent on the internet are Facebook and Twitter, which I am sure is true for many people.

I originally started using Facebook to keep up with far-flung friends and family around the country and indeed around the world. I tried MySpace and didn't like it. Even though I wrote in my profile I wasn't much interested in contemporary music I was flooded with friend requests from bands hoping that theirs would be a fairytale and they would be discovered on the internet and become the next big thing.

Facebook is a great way to connect with people. You can chat, share photos, and I've even made a few new friends. It is also a massive drain on time (if you aren't careful) with an insidious raft of 'social games'. These are funny little 'worlds' where you become a farmer (or whatever) and perform various mundane tasks. The people who programme these games aren't really there to provide you with fun... no, they want to make money (of course, they are businesses). How do they do this? Well, to progress you need to have 'friends' in the game... you have to invite other people you know on Facebook to play with you. There also always comes a point where you need 'coins' or whatever - which you either gain large amounts of by paying money or by completing various 'partner offers'.

Sounds pointless? Pretty much. I know that it is a colossal waste of time... but it is also rather addictive. Top three this week - Farm Town, Farmville and Barn Buddy.

Worse, I think, than Facebook is Twitter. Pundits keep telling me that it is a business tool. I'm not sure that I see how. It is an endless stream of collective consciousness, a lot of banality from a small percentage of the globe. So - why Twitter then? I tried it first of all, because it was there. I started 'tweeting' because the internet etiquette I learnt back in the day was that it is bad form to be a 'lurker' - that is to frequent a social area but not to participate.
Twitter, like a lot of Social Internet, seems to be about 'popularity'. How many followers do you have... how many people do you follow? Who cares! Etiquette probably says if someone follows you then you should follow them. I don't. I check them out and see if they are likely to interest me first. I get enough tweets already without any more that I shan't read! Check your last tweet... you end up on a lot of people's radar because they are watching for certain words, and at least half the people who pick you up this way aren't interested in anything you have to say. They are businesses and are interested in selling you something.
Is there a word for a weekend Twitterer? A Wenditterer? That is a large part of my problem with Twitter. The office net-nanny (quite rightly) blocks it. I'm often too tired in the evenings to boot up my laptop... so that just leaves the weekend. You honestly can't catch up with a week's worth of Tweets.
Ninety percent of Twitter seems to be noise. Occasionally you learn something useful - but honestly... who is really interested that I am sitting in my pyjamas starting the day in style?