Social Networks aren't really social...are they?

Social Networks are overrated. Most of them are pretty useless and a total waste of time. They are popular, sure, but why? I think the answer is more that they are a fad instead of something really useful and worthwhile.

On myspace, I used to get spammed with random people wanting to be my friend, because the number of “friends” you had was a measure of how cool or popular you were. These days, I keep getting spammed with friend invites from “hot” girls….look at their page and you can tell it was assembled moments before with the typical half naked picture and a plea to the reader to sign up on some other site because they are too busy to actually socialize on myspace…and if you give them your credit card number and subscribe they are willing to assume you are a normal person absolutely perfect to date and get to know better. No matter how many times I mark these scams as spam, I still get them. Thank you myspace. Why do I bother to keep my profile there anymore?

Facebook… instead of getting friend invite spam, I keep getting spammed with the latest facebook app of the day. I don’t even bother spending time declining these anymore. All these useless widgets and applications are utterly useless. Even if I did like them (I’ll admit to wasting time with warbook), there isn’t enough hours in the day to play with them all on any regular basis. I’d rather be playing real games over on kongregate.com or goofing off in some MMORPG or another.

And of course, there is a new social networking site every other day, and venture capitalists are just crazy about throwing millions of dollars at anything that remotely sounds like a social networking site…even if it is just like every other one out there. Now, here is the surprising thing…if you have traffic, you are likely to have an easy time of a venture capitalist throwing millions at you. But doesn’t this sound like the dot com crash? Who cares about business models and generating revenue? I have TRAFFIC! I have users! Yeah, I know the majority of them just make profiles and rarely come back (they are busy making profiles everywhere else), but just look at all these user accounts! These same venture capitalists won’t talk to dozens of other non-social networking ventures without a rock solid business plan, a business model from on high, and a team that doesn’t really need the capital to start with. [I’m sure this is going to piss off some VCs, but hey, I’m talking from experience here]. Social networks are one of the “flavors of the day”. But what happens at the end of the day? What if your Social Network is overshadowed by a new kid on the block? What if google DOESN’T want to acquire you (how many of you guys actually list this as your exit strategy?). You are dead in the water (is orkut.com still alive? for non-Brazillian and non-Indian users?) and millions are lost down the drain. This happens in other sectors too (how many MMO dev teams have scored millions for all the wrong reasons and ended up in the trash can, thus screwing it for the rest of us?), but I’m in the mood to pick on Social Networks right now.

Anyway, the obvious potential of social networking and their lovely websites is fairly obvious to any observer with half a brain. This is why these things got funded in the first place, but I don’t think that they are living up to expectation. Just because I have 350 “friends” on my buddy list does not mean that I socialize with them (at all) or that I am some sort of opinion leader, or that I feel like telling each and everyone of them about the latest product I bought or sway them in some other fashion. No, true social networks are the people you SOCIALIZE with. yeah, go figure.

I think that social networking (as website communities) have potential to be sure, but I don’t think anyone has done it right yet. Ok, sure shove the user metrics of accounts and traffic down my throat for all the big sites out there…I’m still not satisfied though. They could be much better. Maybe I’m alone in my bitter arrogance and high standards, but eh, so what. It’s my opinion. If you disagree, send me an invite to join your friends list. Then we will be great buddies right? Maybe someone can really monetize us for a change (and by that, I don’t mean spamming me with popup ads).