I don't mind the occasional note from someone I don't know (or know well) asking me to be friends on Facebook, or to connect on LinkedIn. Over time, I've gotten used to people wanting to pad their network stats through finding my e-mail and expecting us to act as if we're the best of character references. After all, with the value of what a "friend" means online going down seemingly by the day, after a while we'll have to find a new name for the "real world" version, and I don't think "BFF" is going to be it.
But now, new social networking sites, or even warmed-over old ones, are starting to fill my e-mail with absolute junk, under the guise of "real world" friends reaching out and begging me to share our similarities - to compare books I like with their own preferences, exchange favorite movie listings, or see if we've traveled to the same countries. In fact, in some cases, these little features or would-be Facebook apps are sometimes masquerading as full networks on their own, when that guise is frivolous.
The first is Plaxo Pulse - who jumped on Google's Open Social bandwagon last week to gain membership in the "Everybody Except Facebook" club. Since the network's roll-out, I've gotten dozen of Plaxo Pulse invites that have me begging to hit "Return to Sender", if only e-mail worked that way. In my opinion, LinkedIn won the business networking challenge years ago, and Plaxo never got past its spammy beginnings, so we're not going to be making that move any time soon.
Now, even more mind-numbingly, I'm starting to get alerts from people joining Shelfari, hoping I can share book rating and reviews, or even join book clubs. News to all who sent me those invites today - no frickin' way. If I wanted to join a group of folks to review books, I'd already be doing it on Amazon.com. Even worse, it looks like the service isn't wired well enough to tell the difference between a small invite list and spamming the planet. As one person wrote me, when I declined his invitation to Shelfari, "This was really embarrassing. I accidentally sent this one to everyone in my address book!"
With so many social networks out there now, it's become a full-time job for some just to keep current, let alone adding more and more services as they debut. Hence the rise of services like FriendFeed and Spokeo. But each of these social networks are chasing a finite number of heavy Internet users, and there's no question you'll see invite fatigue and eventual saturation. Barring the impossible, I've made my preferred selections, and I'm done. So if you really want to be my friend, stop spamming me. If you want to compare books or movie preferences, pick up the telephone and call. My number's on the top right of the blog.