As I watched the Boing Boing live stream of the Apple announcements yesterday I heaved a reluctant sigh. Apple’s adding a social network (Ping), another level of/opportunity for following, and more interacting for those embedded in Itunes. It’s 2010, people, and I have Facebook, Friendfeed, Plurk, LinkedIn, Grooveshark, Twitter, Flickr, Last.Fm, Ravelry, JacketFlap, LibraryThing, three blogs, six email accounts, and that doesn’t count work email (2), and professional listservs (8?).  Do I really want/need another social network?*

In the past two months, I’ve seen an increase of retreat and honing of social media interaction. Several friends have deleted entire accounts, walked away with hands thrown in the air, frustration pouring over, etc. I’ve been tempted to join them, though usually a Saturday offline surrounded by books, cat, and needles fixes that.

It can be a challenge and a physical effort to be always available, up to date, and interacting with all of your friends on various networks. We ask ourselves to care on a much larger and expanded scale about people around us. This is not always bad–being aware and outside our daily boxes is good for us–it’s one of the more refreshing things about traveling and attending conferences and participating in social networks. However, there is a physical and mental commitment that we must acknowledge.

Things I have noted:

1. We don’t always need to reinvent the where/how-to-communicate wheel. When LPL did our last major website redesign, launched last year, we had aspirations of a ton of patron interaction on our website. As a result we created blogs, added comment options, put in a rating system for books. It was going to be huge. Only–it wasn’t. Public library patrons come to our website primarily to find out if we own a book, when their books are due, and if their holds are in. Now we’ve added a Facebook page and are getting far more participation there. It’s not a failure on our part, in my opinion, but the reality of where our patrons are and are not right now.

2. Most of us need a way to filter our time spent on networks. I’ve become a big fan of the Firefox Plug in LeechBlock. I have it automatically set for certain periods and I’ll turn it on at other times when I find myself overly distracted. The simple removal of access to those websites for 15 minutes can be enough for me to embed myself in something else and by the time I come up from whatever it was I was working on, the time has passed. (I’m also a set-the timer-for-15-minutes-to-clean at home type too.) It’s rare that there’s something so immediate that it can’t wait 15 minutes and if it is that big an emergency, it’ll be someone with my cell phone number if not my work number.

3. We’re running into the clutter of repetition. I have friends who will blast from one network (usually twitter or twitter client) and their message will appear on Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Plurk. And since I’m friends with them on all of these places, I’m seeing it 5 times, possibly participating in conversations about it in more than one place, and that could just be one contact out of many.

4. We’re getting involved to the detriment of the rest of our lives.  Not all of us, not all the time. But if this looks like you…

5. It’s just not coffee. I have many close friends who I only know through the internet and I’m deeply grateful for the relationships we have. I’ve laughed with them, cried, celebrated, screamed…all of that. We have drama and petty fights, friends come and go. They’ve preserved my sanity when Gypsy just can’t understand and kept me from trying to expect an answer from the houseplants. That and philodendron just refuse to edit things for me. But there is a different connection when you actually can sit down face to face with someone. Typing alone in my apartment is not having dinner or coffee or a drink, getting a hug, or curling up over a bowl of popcorn. We still need positive human connection in our lives that isn’t work related.

Blog posts are supposed to have eventual summaries, goals, destinations, aren’t they? Hmmm….

I think we’re going to see an increase of burnout until people are able to decide which one or two networks and methods of communication is the most important for them (and perhaps until companies stop asking us to register and give our opinions on every bleeding thing we ever click on).  We’ll splinter off into our various little factions that will not be unlike bars with different clientele, coffee shops that have a specific appeal, and every other in person social way we divide ourselves.  I also think we’re going to see people advocating more and more for an unhooked day of the week/week of the year–where we step back and take a look at people around us, rather than names on a screen.

It’ll be interesting to see if more vacation options arise where they take away all internet connected devices. Even just going down to a DVD player, no-web mp3 player, and TV is quite a disconnect these days. Or perhaps we’ll all sail away on a cruise ship that promises that no one can reach us for a week (except of course by the emergency phone and email system the ship has).

Oh and look what came in while I was writing this post, apparently according to TechCrunch, I’m doing it wrong.

*Of course, that would mean I have to download I-Tunes again.  I had it for a bit but as I own a non-Apple mp3 player, it was mostly just cluttering up the desktop.