Social Network Fatigue

Once upon a time, the only social networking options were snail-mail, rotary dial telephones, and face-to-face. Travel costs and long distance telephone charges made letters the preferred means for keeping up with out-of-town friends and family. When not in class or hanging out with local friends, I spent hours on the telephone talking with them. Yeah. I can be kinda catty chatty.

I got my first email account in the 1980s through work. In those early days, all messages were business-related. Spam hadn’t yet been invented. Gradually, folks stopped worrying about nosey employers. For family and friends with an addy, email became the preferred means of communication.

My first home computer, purchased in the 1990s, came preloaded with AOL. Dial-up access ruled out talking on the telephone. The email account I set up for personal use got more spam than anything else. Some things never change.

Because the constant busy signal pissed him off, the guy I was dating introduced me to AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). The relationship lasted five more years. Minutes after filling out my profile, IMs popped up from strangers looking for a hook up. This was, in my opinion, the beginning of the end for gay bars.

The next nail in the coffin for gay bars was, featuring private messages and live chat rooms by geographic location or interest. Hanging out in the Athens chat room was fun and highly entertaining — like gay bars had been back in the 80s. Compared to falling in love while highly intoxicated moments after last call, however, chatting online was far more effective for screening out crazies. Gay web sites gave way to hookup apps.

Facebook entered my life in the 2000s. Reconnecting with people I hadn’t seen in eons was very cool. Staying in touch with classmates normally seen only at reunions every five years added value to my social networking experience. We controlled our newsfeed. Updates appeared in the order they were posted. Sigh.

I started my blog in 2008, which ended up being the first serious step toward becoming an author. After I signed my first contract, writer friends said a presence on Goodreads was essential. I don’t think I’m doing it right. A very long email message about how to participate has awaited further study in my inbox for nearly a year now.  I also belong to dozens of Facebook groups for writers, but keeping up with all the posts is overwhelming. I turned off notifications for most of them months ago.

I signed on to Twitter in 2011 and wasn’t impressed. Tweeting was like yelling from the ocean floor. Now I prefer Twitter over Facebook for letting people know what’s up with me and my books. At least I know my tweets will appear in the feeds of all my followers. I have no idea who does and doesn’t see stuff on Facebook.

I added Google+ earlier this year. In truth, I’ve had it all along, but didn’t care. Granted I’m a slow learner, but the setup baffles me. I see where someone commented on something I posted, but can’t find the comment. Two months in, I quit trying to figure things out and stopped checking my feed (or whatever it’s called on Google+).

A few months ago I added LinkedIn — avoided up to now because I don’t see myself looking for another job ever again (knock on wood). As I’m prohibited from including information about my books in work-related communications, LinkedIn looked like a good way to keep my professional colleagues informed about my writing career. I have no idea how LinkedIn works either, and am leery of the contact finder wizard. I did it once. Why does it keep asking me to do it again?

I don’t have Pinterest, Instagram, Ello, Goodbye or anything else. Frankly, there’s no point in adding more. I can’t keep up with what I do have.

So to all my old pals on Facebook and Twitter, I’m sorry I never comment, or reply to your comments. I do see them, and will usually “like” or “favorite” them to let you know. Sometimes, even that is more than I can do.

I also feel guilty for being such a bad virtual friend to the writers I know. Most are great about sharing, retweeting, and otherwise helping with book promotions. I do well to check my own feeds, much less see what everyone else is up to — never mind reading books and posting reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

Social network fatigue — a term I naively thought I’d made up — is a real thing. “Mental exhaustion and stress caused by creating and maintaining an excessive number of accounts on social networking sites.”  No wonder everyone stares at a smartphone or computer screen all day. It’s the only way to keep up.

2 responses to “Social Network Fatigue”

    • Ha! Actually, this is a problem I think we’ll solve in the next ten years or so. It’s all so new, nobody knows how to deal with it. We’ll figure it out one day. Thanks for stopping by!