Don’t be an Internet shut in.

Social networking, the phrase which gained so much popularity with the advent of a website that isn’t actually all that social. “So, you’re going on another anti-Facebook rant then Hayden?” Looks that way, sorry! Of all the myriad benefits Facebook offers us such as the chance to keep in contact with people we never bothered to keep in contact with from school, the chance to see what someone we probably don’t even like that much had for their dinner, and of course everyone’s pets the one thing it doesn’t do is encourage any kind of real social interaction. What it does, and does amazingly well, is keep a vast swatch of people captivated with absolutely bullshit so that they can be monetised correctly. It’s all incredibly well done if we’re to be honest about it.

Take a look at your friends list. How many of those people are actually your “friends”? How many do you even stay in touch with on Facebook? If you’re like most people you’ve, for the most part, accumulated a list of people from your past you didn’t care all that much about anyway. You also probably post and comment alongside people you either see fairly regularly or could actually talk to on the phone (or with an online telephony service like Skype, let’s stay modern here!). Nothing about Facebook encourages genuine interaction. It’s all about sharing the mundane, harvesting “likes”, and indulging in small bouts of “conversation” via the tiny chat window. All you really need to do is post crap others will keep reading and consume, all the time being served advertising tailored roughly to whatever you’re typing about today. Nice!

Just look at the level of interaction. Before Facebook would you ever have wondered what someone’s dinner looked like unless it was something genuinely exotic? Granted, if your friend called you up and said “Hey, I’m about to eat raw snapping turtle served on a bed of pulled pigs eyes” you might respond with a picture request (well…if you’re like me you would), but if the same friend were to say “Hi, I’m having a burger and some chips. Want a picture?” you’d quite rightly ask them if they’d had a brain injury. We’re drowning in a sea of mundane junk for hours every day and we apparently love it. And then there’s the “social” aspect.

Being old an miserable I remember when we would not only trawl websites (as opposed to A website) and use these things called “Chat rooms”. Now, chat rooms were pretty epic. You’d have IRC ones where the lulz could get a bit unfortunate from time to time and you’d have organised and ever so slightly sanitised ones. What you got though, in spades, was an opportunity to meet and chat with people from all over the world. You didn’t have to ‘friend’ them, you could just chat and move on. Sometimes you’d click with people and you’d perhaps meet up regularly to chat but it was more dynamic, more social. But I guess I’m just old.

Thing is, this is all still out there so why aren’t we opening our horizons beyond groups of people we know or groups we know will have the same interests as us? Why do we spend hours reading how long it took for someone to get a tyre fixed or an ingrown toenail dug out when we could be reading websites with content that’s actually interesting. Why have we bought into this race for the bottom wholesale, why have we embraced the lowest common denominator where the endless stream of non-events is only punctuated by a trip to buzzfeed to see yet another list of things you’ve seen before? Why on earth do we sit on a website playing games that are actually mindlessly repetitive tasks dressed up with micro transactions? We’re acting like cattle.

Don’t be a shut in, get out there and explore cyberspace while we still have it. Find those odd sites, find those chat rooms where you’ve no clue as to who will be in there let alone what their opinions or interests might be. Be social, make the most of the opportunity you have to broaden your horizons beyond your ‘friends’ list. And don’t worry if it means spending a little less time on Facebook because if any of the people on your list are actually your friends they’ll understand. Maybe they’ll even tag along.

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