Subtraction by addition
Path, Everyme and Pair point to a possible desire for smaller social networks full of people you might actually know and care about. Maybe. I suppose we’ll have to see if any of them sell for $1 billion before we know for sure.
Pair is easy — that’s just me and my wife. Because Path pulls mainly from your Facebook friends list, it’s like a select version of that. I really like it — it’s a gorgeous app that combines a lot of the best features of Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram in a way that doesn’t feel cluttered — but most of my close friends don’t use it, and I’ve noticed that the people I do follow are using it less and less. Everyme I haven’t tried, but like Path, my contacts are culled from existing networks then sorted into groups, so it’s just preferred and more organized subsets of people I’m already connected to.
And that’s what’s kind of interesting. I could accomplish the same goals of these apps by dropping “friends” who aren’t actually my friends from Facebook or Twitter. Just stop following them. Block them. Whatever. But I don’t. In fact, most times I have no fucking clue what I’m doing with my social networks. I alternate between loving and hating Twitter and trying to decide exactly what it’s for. (Conclusion: I have no idea.) I want to blow up my Facebook page, but it’s my primary tool for communicating with family in other places (or rather, in most cases, it’s their primary tool for communicating with me). Also, thanks to Facebook Connect, it’s how I sign into a lot of services. And it drives nearly 40% of the traffic on this site.
So, for these reasons and more, I’m pathologically committed to maintain social networks that I find mostly irritating or time consuming or, frankly, just draining. And it’s forcing me (and apparently others) to add things like Path and Everyme and Pair to my life. I’ve heard of addition by subtraction, but this is subtraction by addition. I’m adding icons to my iPhone’s home screen in an effort to simplify my digital social life. But to maintain my presence on Twitter and Facebook (and Tumblr and Foursquare), I automate things — this blog auto-posts to Twitter and cross posts to Facebook — which is one of the behaviours I saw from other people that made me start disliking Facebook and especially Twitter in the first place. Nobody seemed to care.
I suppose that means we’re okay. I can have an infinite number of networks for infinite combinations of infinite kinds of relationships. And although that’s actually what I’m doing, it doesn’t necessarily seem like the best idea, right?