Alternate title: the ultimate in first world problems.
I use the Internet. A lot. A lot, a lot. Obviously. I came of age in the digital era and I was there for the birth of facebook and everything that came after. I've evolved with the Internet and I can navigate it with my eyes closed. (Metaphorically speaking, of course. You need eyes to use the Internet. It's rather two-dimensional.) I've seen it go from Geocities to Web 2.0 and I've seen it go from the hamster dance to Grumpy Cat.
I've also seen the sprawl of social media and, quite frankly, I think it's kind of jumped the shark. It's everywhere - including places it shouldn't be. It's hard to escape, and even if you don't use it, you hear about it constantly.
I use it, obviously. I have this blog. I use facebook probably the most (HELLO FAR AWAY FRIENDS!), Instagram a fair bit, Twitter when I feel like it, and LinkedIn because it's there and apparently important and I'm not so deluded to think that everyone stays at the same job forever, myself included. Somehow or another, Pinterest became classified as a social media network, but that's not how I use it. It's a visual bookmarking site, a stress-reliever, a place to browse for clever items, pretty things, design inspiration, and recipes. It is in no way a networking site and I couldn't give a rip how many followers I have. Ask me. I can't tell you. I don't have a clue. My point is: if it's there, I've probably tried it. I have a myspace account somewhere that I can't delete because I don't remember the password. I have a Google+ account that collects dust and occasionally sends me notices that people on the other side of the world have added me to their circles.
Such is the way of things right now, I suppose. Every other website has a facebook login (which drives me crazy because, sure, it's easier than creating a login, but it's just one more way of tying people to the machine - I don't want everything I do or read to be broadcast to everyone I've ever met, which is kind of what facebook has turned into, because I haven't quite mustered up the nerve to start deleting people) and everything gets "shared" and "liked" and "retweeted" and there are so many new words in our lexicon now that people five years ago would have stared at you like you had a third eyeball if you'd used. "I repinned this photo that so-and-so Instagrammed and it totes got a ton of likes so obviously I had to tweet it too!" VERBS. THE INTERNET HAS BEEN CREATING THEM SINCE THE BEGINNING.
I'm getting older, and it doesn't all hold the same constant appeal that it used to. More often than not, I find myself grumbling about the existence of it all and how exhausting it is and how facebook is turning into one giant email forward/chain letter and how society is heading to hell in a handbasket and perhaps I'm just turning into an old carmudgeon, but maybe I'm just to a point where, hey, the great big world OUTSIDE the series of tubes and pixels is pretty great and maybe we should all just go frolic in a meadow for a while.
My point, of which I swear I have, is that it's getting out of hand.
I got an email last night, one of hundreds that I get every day and promptly delete, but for some reason this one caught my eye.
"So-and-so started following you on Etsy!"
I'm sure I've received identical emails before and probably ignored them. But this time, this one struck a nerve. I don't WANT to be followed on Etsy, I don't WANT to have followers, I just want to shop in peace. It in no way benefits my existence to have people watching my every move, see what I buy, see what I tag with a "favorite" (which is sometimes just a glorified bookmark).
STOP SOCIAL MEDIA-IZING EVERYTHING.
Not everything needs to be watched or followed or shared or linked or tweeted or broadcast to the entire world of friends and strangers alike. Sometimes, a little privacy is in order. Sometimes, I just want to be left alone and be allowed to do whatever I want online without having to be aware that People Are Watching.
Besides, in the case of Etsy, maybe I want to favorite an item and come back to it later. If this gets flagged and someone else is now aware of it, what's to stop them from buying that item out from underneath me? NOTHING. This is a terrible idea. People can swoop in on my lovely finds and buy them before I get a chance.
It would be different if I was a seller. I would definitely want followers and fans or whatever - FUTURE CUSTOMERS. It makes sense there. But I am NOT a seller, I am a browser and a shopper and I have no need for people to be watching me. I don't like it. And I don't think I can opt out of it.
I know it's impossible to be invisible. I know big retailers watch you like a hawk when you shop with them online, or they track your in-store purchases. I've had some stores email me like HEY YOU LEFT SOMETHING IN YOUR CART YOU SHOULD COME BACK AND BUY IT PRETTY PLEASE. I know without the slightest trace of doubt that big stores like Target watch what I buy so they can more properly market to me - but you know what? If they want to go through all that trouble just to send me coupons and sales on items that I actually want and/or buy? I'm kind of okay with that. I benefit from that. Sure, it's slightly creepy, but thanks to Google, every single thing we do is monitored anyway. I'm sure we've all noticed how things we have looked at online have started popping up as ads in our email or along our facebook sidebar. We can't hide.
But there is absolutely no need to make everything one big interconnected free-for-all. The phrase "social media" is starting to make me cringe because it's everywhere and it's bandied about by people who really don't "get" it but think they do (looking at you, mainstream media and clueless newspeople). It's the ultimate buzzword these days and you know what? It's a bubble. It's going to pop. It's like the Dot Com whatever it was of the 90s. It's not going to last and I think I am going to be relieved when it's over. I like it, in so much as I can use it for my own enjoyment to interact with my friends. But once it gets beyond that, it's too much. There's no control over it anymore, I can't control what websites suddenly "connect" everything and there is no longer an innocuous place to just kill time or buy things. But it's probably not happening anytime soon and it's going to get worse before it gets better and it's driving me bananas.
I'm tired of collecting followers and I'm tired of it being framed as this awesome thing when someone follows me. It's not awesome. It's creepy and invasive and I don't want them. Not everywhere. It's relevant in certain places, where you're trying to communicate to a large audience to tell your stories or share your thoughts - blogs, Twitter, maybe even Instagram. I can even make a case for Pinterest, even though I prefer to use it for my own personal pleasure, not for impressing the masses. But it's not relevant everywhere and I think Etsy is a great example of that. It's pointless and it defeats the entire purpose.
Just STOP IT already. Leave me alone. Let me wander the Internet in peace or I'm going to avoid your site and then everybody loses, especially you. There's a lot of places to spend my money. I will most likely choose to do it somewhere that doesn't annoy me.
I guess I've found the line. And the line is e-commerce. Shopping is not a social event for me. And it just illuminates the larger issue, which is: NOT EVERYTHING IS A SOCIAL EVENT. It doesn't need to be shared or tweeted or liked or broadcast to the Internet. Sometimes, every now and then, it's nice to just fly under the radar and do my thing and quiet the noise from the Internet. Peace and quiet and privacy.
Yes, my friends, I think I am getting quite old, indeed. Stay off my e-lawn.