15 September 2008

What a friend we have in Whatsisname

In the last two days I have been informed by BlogCatalog that four people have listed me as their "friend". I don't actually know any of them, and as far as I can tell (and Blog Catalog is supposed to tell you these things) not one of them has actually visited any of my blogs.

On BlogCatalog I am told I am a friend of 30 people, and probably about 20 of them I don't know at all, and they have never visited any of my blogs. By contrast, I have three people listed as my friends. Two of them I have met in the flesh, and the third, whom I haven't actually met, I have been communicating with on line for nearly 20 years.

BlogCatalog is a social blogrolling site; it is primarily a way of seeing who has visited your blog recently, and keeping track of the blogs of people you know. In that, it performs a useful function, but it gets a bit counterproductive when people add as "friends" people they don't know and who don't know them, and in whom they have no interest and with whom they have no desire to communicate.

Another similar social blogrolling site is MyBlogLog. Instead of "friends", they have "contacts", but the principle is the same, and so is the abuse. MyBlogLog allows you to categorise contancts into "Family", "Friends" and just "Contacts", but again, it really makes little sense to list as contacts people with whom you have no contact, and no desire to be in contact.

I list as "contacts" or "friends" only people I actually communicate with. At a minimum, I would say that they should have left at least three comments on my blog, and I should have left at least three comments on theirs. But preferably they should also be people I communicate with outside the blogosphere, either by e-mail or face to face.

Much the same sort of thing can be said of Twitter, where I am sometimes informed that someone new is "following" me, and when I have a look, I discover that that person is "following" (seems more like "stalking" to me) several thousand other people. Twitter isn't even a social blogrolling thing. It's where I let my wife know that I have or haven't bought black plastic rubbish bags at the supermarket so that she can know whether she does or doesn't need to get some on her way home from work. Actually, I have great difficulty in getting my wife or other members of my close family to read Twitter, so it seems that there isn't much point in it, and the only people reading it are people on the other side of the world whom I've never met, and am never likely to.

And to such people I would say, don't follow me on Twitter -- read my blog(s), and comment on them, then at least we'll be communicating. If you don't want to read my blogs, if you find them boring, or irrelevant to your interests, then there is no conceivable reason why you would want me as a friend or a contact.

My wife watched a TV programme a few months ago that mentioned that the average person knows about 1750 people in their life time. Out of curiosity I've tried to list all the people I've known to see if I can reach 1750. I've almost reached 500. It boggles the mind when people are apparently "following" over 8000 people on Twitter, or list over 8000 "contacts" or "friends" on social blogtolling sites.

One social commentator remarked that " The Rushdie affair showed how dangerous is the present stage of global development - a stage of communication without community". [1] But I think Anderson underestimated it. It certainly isn't community, and there doesn't seem to be much communication either. It seems that the more tools we have to communicate, the less communication actually takes place.

I've ranted about this before, so perhaps some people are finding it boring (another reason why you don't want me as your friend). So perhaps I should end this rant with something positive, some hints on how to get the best out of social blogrolling sites like MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog:

  • Log in to social blogrolling sites you belong to, and don't log out. If you are logged out you won't show up on the widget on other people's blogs, so they won't know if you've visited and so are less likely to pay your blog a return visit.
  • Put the "Recent visitors" widget somewhere on your blog. Visitors can then find other blogs that they might find interesting, since if they are interested in your blog they will probably find the blogs of frequent visitors to your blog interesting as well.
  • List your interests ("tags" in MyBlogLog) so that others can find your blog more easily.
  • Don't list people as "friends" or "contacts" unless you actually know them and want to communicate with them. And above all don't list anyone as a friend if you haven't read their blog.


[1] Anderson, Walter Truett. 1990. Reality isn't what it used to be. San Francisco: Harper. Dewey: 909.82. Page 241.


Rethabile said...

I'm not on Twitter, but Facebook is much the same in the way you suddenly have people wanting to be your friend for no apparent reason.

The difference is that on FB you can have friends you don't know or aren't likely to ever meet just because you share the same specific interest. I have many unknown "pals" with whom I talk ans share poetry.

Steve Hayes said...


But at least you are communicating with those people of FaceBook about your shared interest in poetry. I'm talking about the ones where there is no apparent shared interest, and no communication.

Yewtree said...

I think a lot of these people are just spammers - I got followed on Twitter by 3 probably fictional people with one tweet each (all exactly the same as each other); I just blocked them.

I never go to MyBlogLog (I find their user interface unusable); I just use the widget on my blogs.

inland empire restaurant and food reviews said...

Social sites are made to have friends so you can bring traffic to your site. Otherwise why join if you only want 3 friends you can do that by word of mouth. To have a friend is to be a friend. By visiting each others sites.But if you never accept a friendship, then most wont find an interest in you. Such is the way of the world.


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