Social Networks as an Obligation?

Posted by: James C. Roberts III in social networkinginternet on Print 

James C. Roberts III

Reluctant to use social networking sites?  Don’t really like to use the browser on your smartphone?  You are not alone.  The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported the results of a survey,, which got picked up by mainstream media (and blogs, etc.) for some of the findings.  You can download the Adults and Social Network Websites report here .

What really got everyone’s attention was that there is a group labeled the "Ambivalent Networkers," those who aren’t really keen on all this networking.  And what was really interesting to many was that these are males in their late 20’s.  The AP picked up this story and reached a few conclusions that were not the only ones in the report.  Quoting from that article (and reported at TechnNewsWorld ), the Pew director, Lee Rainie said that technology "feels like an obligation."

Uh-huh.

Raise your hand if you feel that way and if you are not a man in your late 20's.

The Report, "Generations Online 2009," makes all sorts of interesting points---for example, that men in their late 30's are enthusiastic about using technology (also reported in the AP story above).  What troubles me, though, is that the report relies upon surveys over a four-year period---which is pretty much the same period hat social networking usage numbers went through the roof.  Therefore, the numbers might end up under-counting usage by age cohort. 

Common Sense:  Technology Can Be a Burden

Still, common sense tells me that anyone with a life (i.e., employed or formerly employed and over 25) and Internet access does have this kind of reluctance to use all of these tools, especially the online community sites, ranging from MySpace to Facebook to LinkedIn and on into the blogosphere. 

OK, raise your hand again if you have seen the amount of time you use on each of these decline.  Map it against the amount of months (weeks, whatever) since you started.  You will find a steady drop-off (with some exceptions).  But how many of us have signed up for half a dozen blogs and end up visiting and using only one or two?

Part of the problem lies with the lengthy registration/profile process for so many of these sites.  If all you want to do is post a comment to someone's post, do you really have to sign in and then wait for the confirming email???

And, as we all know. Part of the problem is wading through everything you find on your FB Wall (or inbox in LinkedIn).  Joining the alumni group of your junior high school means that you have to read entries from people you didn't like then and still don't like.  (Of course, there are the other examples of finding people you did like and re-connecting with them.)