Anyone that knows me knows that I never had a myspace or facebook account. While I know that my adamant refusal to establish a presence on those sites seemed like it might be a bit of an elitist attitude, it was actually more of a “oh no, not again” reaction.
I began my online life in 1992, and my primary use of the Internet was Internet Relay Chat (IRC). IRC was, and still is, the ultimate online chat room. There are hundreds of networks these days, and while I am sure there were more than just undernet and EFnet, those were two of the biggest when I started. After getting me signed onto EFnet, my older sister told me, pick the name of something you are interested in and join a channel with that name preceded by a hash tag. As a twelve year old, my priorities were simple. No, I did not join #sex. I joined #genesis (yay Sega). As I am sure you have guessed, it was not a video game channel, but it did act as the #genesis *badump chi* to my 5 year addiction to online chat. I met several interesting individuals in the room, and they invited me over to #dakewlchannel, and I have not spelled the word cool correctly since. I then spent the next several years hanging out in #vampcafe on undernet. Vampires were kewl long before before Twilight.
If you have not noticed yet, Twitter’s use of the hash tag was not original.
I am not exactly sure when it happened, but I made the leap from IRC to a similar but even more addictive social network. Multi-User Dungeons (MUD) were the precursor to MMORPGs. Instead of graphical games that you played with a local console they were server hosted text games. Lots of fun. While I can not recall the name of the first mud I played, I do know that StuphMUD is why I do not spell stuff correctly anymore either.
As I hit my later teen years, I somehow started to develop a life outside the Internet. This was quite the blessing considering the number of holidays I spent online with people I had never met, and most of which I never would. Part of that life outside the Internet was an introduction to the the Austin rave scene. My primary interest in the events was learning Poi, although my interest did vary a bit over the time I was involved in the scene. Oddly enough, this pushed me back into another form of social networking. The increasingly popular (at the time) Web Forum. This too became a bit of an addiction. I had a hard time staying off the forums, even if it was just reading updates. Drama eventually drove me away. I do not recall if it was just the site’s drama, or drama I had with people that actually affected the separation, and I do not really care because I got away from it.
Within a year or two myspace started becoming popular, and I avoided it like a plague. Facebook came around, but was initially for colleges only, which was a great reason for me to stay away as I had never attended one. Once it became open and more popular, I already knew it was a possible online addiction and readily stayed away.
I did however see at least some benefit to LinkedIn, and do have a profile there. I do not spend much time on it, but occasionally look at my feed. Its about all I do with it though, I have not been dragged in.
Then Google went and did something. I am still not sure how I feel about it, but they made it so that all I had to do was flip a switch and my existing Google account was apart of a new social network, Google+. So I flipped it. I have got to say, I love the concept of Circles. The blatant openness of data sharing that was the default on all its predecessors was a bit much for me, but the directed and immediate control of posts to specific circles makes that significantly less intrusive.
On the other hand, I am not a fan of Google+’s name policy. I get some of where they are coming from, and since I specifically use my Google account with my name its less of an issue for me directly. That does not make it right. The Internet and Free Speech have always gone hand in hand. To have potentially one of the most powerful and online companies in the world decide that there is no longer a place for that is just scary.
Fortunately, the other thing that is important to remember about Freedom, is that it exists. There are so many technologies available and so many ways to use them that if there needs to be a way around a repressive regime, one can be made. The unfortunate side of that is that few of those are seen as ‘easy’ by the people that would need them, whereas the likes of Twitter and Facebook are well within the reach of the most technologically impaired.
So… Google+ is an experiment for me, dipping my toes into the modern social network experience. As of yet I have not looked at it any more than LinkedIn, and am pretty comfortable with the experience. Let us all hope that something better comes of their online profile policies.