I would be the first to admit that I'm a bit of a recluse.

I've always been painfully shy, and as a kid I had the enormous privilege of being brought up in a large house surrounded by large gardens and grounds, miles away from anyone else other than my immediate family. I did have friends, and at an early age I was sent away to boarding school, there to spend my days cheek by jowl with hundreds of other boys.* I've lived in cities and I've worked in vast offices with many colleagues, but I'm still something of a loner, quite probably because of that early contrast between the enforced togetherness of school and the blissful solitude of home. Right now I am very happy living in the arse end of nowhere, in a situation where I can go all day without seeing or speaking to anyone other than the dogs, the cat and the Horse Doctor. I can walk from my front door, out into the countryside and wander for hours without encountering another soul. This to my mind is paradise.

Which is probably why I've never got the hang of this social networking thing.

I have no myspace account, no facebook or twitter (indeed, I'm only peripherally aware of what these things are.) I joined Crimespace because Dan Hatadi told me to, and because I like crime fiction. But having set up my account, I'm at a loss as to what to do with the thing. Over the months, a steady stream of complete strangers has asked me to be their friend, and with the occasional exception of the obvious spam, I'm happy to be on their lists. But beyond the initial contact with a bunch of people I already knew, I've not asked anyone to be my friend. I just can't see the reason why.

It's the same with forums. I joined the Mystery Circus, but I'd long since drifted away before the brouhaha that brought the marquee crashing down. Mark Billingham's Talk Zone is in my bookmarks, but I couldn't tell you the last time I went there even to read what other people are saying. I even signed on to Warren Ellis' the Engine, but that was because I was looking for an artist for a project that never got off the ground.

And that's perhaps the nub of it. I signed up to the Engine for a readily identifiable reason - I needed to find something. But I'm just not the sort of person who gets enjoyment from posting comments and engaging in on-line debate. It takes me too long to gather all the information together to marshal my arguments, and it's too much of a distraction when I really should be working on the next Inspector McLean novel. Like much of my web-use, it comes with a heavy dose of 'should be doing better things with your time' guilt.

Today I received an invitation to be someone's friend on yet another social network site. I won't name names, and in truth I'm not annoyed to be asked. Quite the opposite in fact. But going to the site in question, I find that in order to be this person's friend, I first need to set up an account with the service. That is to say, I have to put myself onto yet another social network.

And quite frankly I can't see the point. Except that I don't really want to be seen as snubbing an invitation from someone who I do know, if only through blogging. I feel bad to refuse such a request, and yet at the same time I know that I am unlikely to gain anything from it other than the warm glow of being loved. Is that selfish? It's certainly cynical, but then I've been a yapping dog since those early days at boarding school. That kind of brutalist education breeds a thick-skinned cynicism as its first survival mechanism.

Perhaps the problem with this noisy internet revolution is that it's all about the size of your network of friends and the audience you can address, never about the depth and strength of that friendship. I like to think that I'd drop everything for a friend, if there were anything I could do to help in their time of need. That, I think, is rather more commitment than your average facebook buddy is prepared to give.

* and read into that what you will.


Vincent said…
I know where you're coming from (and I don't mean Wales). I sporadically interact on Crimespace and if there's an interesting question to ask or discussion to follow, it's fun, but not sure about everything that goes with it. I haven't signed up with any other social networks either. Surely the big failing of all these networks is the fact that everyone has their own social network already with friends and family, contacted via phones and emails and, god forbid, actual face to face conversation. Joining an online social network means transferring all that information into a flashy database so you can... um, talk to those same people using the network's versions of all those ways of communicating that you had already.
Daniel Hatadi said…
I relate social networking on the internet to drinking.

Some people are happy to go to the same club every week and get trashed, getting to know the core regulars and maybe flirting a little with the newer people. Others would rather go to a pub with a few close friends and natter away. Still others are happy to sit at home, read a book, and sip some nice tea.

Depending on my mood, I like a mix of all of these, whether in real life or on the internet. A small amount of social interaction is something I like doing on the net, especially when I'm at the day job or procrastinating while writing.

Oh, and if that invite you got the other day was for Quechup, it seems to be getting a bad rep for inviting everyone on new member's contact lists without making the member very aware of it.

And thanks for joining Crimespace, even if ain't quite your bag. :)
JamesO said…
I like to have a quiet drink with friends from time to time, Daniel. I'll let you know next time I'm in Sydney;}#

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