Social Network Overload
Maintaining the loose, weak connections of online acquaintanceships is demanding. It takes time to send Tweets every day or to post to Google+ and LinkedIn. It requires planning and effort, especially if you are using these media to promote your "brand" in this age of freelancing.
It is too demanding, it turns out, so I usually find myself checking Facebook because that is also where some of the news sites I follow post links. Facebook is sort of an "all-in-one" even if it is far from perfect.
The other Internet options are more flawed than Facebook, so it wins by default. I'm not sure how long ago I last logged on to LiveJournal or any Yahoo Group. The communities faded away some time ago, existing as artifacts of ancient Web history. The only "users" of some websites and mailing lists are spammers' "bots" sending scams to each other.
Twitter proved rather dull. I still skim the feeds, but the noise ratio keeps rising. That's too bad, because there are some fun Twitter users I enjoy. If you follow me on Twitter, I'm sorry I don't post more updates. I just don't see a reason to share little things. Nobody cares if I'm at the local mall or skating at the park — and if someone does care, I worry that it is to find out when I'm not home. (Yes, thieves use social networking. Why help them?)
When I tell myself I will use Google+ or LinkedIn, I visit the sites and see not much is posted by friends or colleagues. In many cases, the posts are simply forwarded messages that are also on Facebook.
Some autistic teens and adults tell me they are compulsive Internet citizens, from Web surfing to sending text messages they feel a compulsion to be connected to something. They find the Internet a way to connect to the "other" in ways that are challenging in person.
At the same time, the Internet is fraught with complications. Minor discussions turn into heated debates. Some people "troll" looking for arguments. There are misunderstandings, especially when sarcasm or irony is involved. The half-life of some virtual friendships can be measured in days or weeks, instead of months and years.
I don't believe most of the people I've met online are "friends" in the true sense of the word. There are good people online, I know, but for the most part these are not the people I could call in an emergency. Some people are also good, and would help a complete stranger as best they could online, but a virtual friend can't give you a ride to the emergency room or help you when the basement floods.
Oh, I do respond to posts from time to time, but nothing like I once did. I don't even read the mailing lists I helped found, which indicates how I have prioritized my online time.
One good excuse for spending less time exploring online: I'm working a lot of hours. I believe that alone has altered my habits more than anything else. Okay, that and moving, buying a new home, and taking up regular exercise. Online exploration is that "extra" that gives way when I'm busy.