I’m not sure if you noticed, but I spend a lot of time online. It’s partially my job, but I’m a pretty ‘net-connected type guy in just a general fashion. And this is nothing new. Part of my net presence has, for the last six years or so, been this site here, ironSoap.org. I cultivate it, I design it, I’ve made it my own over various iterations and levels of attention. To a certain extent, ironSoap.org is me, when I’m online. If people want to know who ‘ironsoap’ is on an IRC channel or a forum, I put my web address in nearly every public-facing “profile” I can find.
It’s not like I’m trying to drive traffic to my site so they can click on ads and make me a bunch of money. I don’t run ads on ironSoap. I pay for the hosting and the domains from my own pocket and I create all the content here. The key reason why ill-fated efforts like Hyperbolic Avatars existed was because I didn’t care to have other people—even people I love and respect—putting themselves onto my site.
There is even a conscious effort to make the site intuitive: Wherever I use the name ironsoap (which is pretty much everywhere), I figure people could put that “word” into a search engine and come up with this site. What else is called “ironsoap” after all? Or, they could just try “ironsoap.com” and they’ll come here. If they want to talk to me, firstname.lastname@example.org works as you’d expect. So does email@example.com. I don’t advertise these addresses; they aren’t my official email address. But my official email address is listed and I like to it all the time without de-spamminating it: firstname.lastname@example.org. Yeah, I get a lot of junk mail and I have to do aggressive filtering on my inbox.
But I don’t mind. This is me. Me online. I have a presence, by design.
So help me out here. A lot of people I know are on Facebook. Or MySpace. Or whatever other social networking site. Orkut or whatever. I don’t know. For the longest time I’ve avoided them. I’ve done so on purpose, because to me they simply seemed like a new-wave version of Geocities. They appeared, from my observational vantage point high on my horse, to be nothing more than a simple way to create an online presence. And, of course, tie it into someone else’s system so they can serve you ads and adjust the Terms of Service as they see fit. So they can limit you to their design sensibilities and the limitations of their web engineering departments.
My stance on all these things has always been, “No thanks. I already have a web presence. I’ve had it since 2001.” Is it smug? You betcha. But is it also true? Absolutely.
I’ve heard people complaining to me that I’m not “hooked in” with their little circle of Facebookies or MySpacers and they grumble that it wouldn’t kill me to have a profile set up. And they’re right, I suppose it wouldn’t. But why should I? Why would I want to keep a separate account for all these sites that offer me no value whatsoever? I don’t create profiles on Motley Fool just in case some armchair investor wants to contact me. My thought process is this: I’m not hard to find, but if you can’t narrow a Google search enough to track me down, you probably don’t know me well enough for me to want to talk to you anyway.
I didn’t say I wasn’t an elitist jerk.
But it’s getting out of control. I have Facebook invites coming in from business contacts now. What gives? Has the whole world gone mad? Am I overlooking something pivotal about these sites? Tell me, dear readers, why should I bother?
Is there anything I could do on a social networking site that I can’t do on ironSoap? Anything that makes me the jerk for not joining up when I’ve been trying to drag people online since 1998 only to find that when they got here they started telling me how it’s “done”? Have I gotten old and set in my ways already, destined to be the cranky old coot on the Internet’s porch screaming at the dang kids to get off my LAN?
What, exactly, is in it for me?