By The Way: Who can refuse an invitation to connect?

Everybody these days is networked and connected up to the eyeballs through every conceivable means, it seems, but face-to-face.
Apart from email and my 5-year-old by-now-brain-damaged Nokia, with whom I am emotionally bonded, I have thus far deftly ducked every request to connect, assiduously avoiding signing up on LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, Friendster, MySpace, Google, Skype, Yahoo, MSN, whatever.
OK, not true. I did download a couple of instant messaging programs some years ago, but didn't end up using them a lot; that whole thing with log-in and passwords was just too much work. And I never did like the way those little windows would jump up at you, sometimes several of them at the same time, when you were in the middle of something else. So I eventually figured out how to stop the IM programs from starting up automatically, every time I booted up my computer. And since I'd never remember to activate them, eventually I forgot the passwords and couldn't turn them on even if I wanted to.
I must admit though, that I'm now quite adept at texting, and actually like the fact that one can exchange messages without having speak to someone on the phone, particularly when one of you is not into "reach out and touch" mode.
While texting is far less intrusive than a phone call, my problem is that the signal is usually poor under the rock in my garden, which is where I scuttle off for weeks at a stretch, for a bit of "quiet time". Of course, this rather antisocial habit doesn't help my notoriously subliminal schmooze quotient and networking skills. So I surprised myself somewhat when the "connect-or-die" impulse kicked in out of the blue, likely triggered by about 100 due-to-expire-reminders for 59,000 different network/connect programs.
Having nothing better to do, I sat up till 6 a.m. one night last week, and indiscriminately signed up for every last program I had ever been invited to join. A gazillion passwords, log-ins and enter-personal-details later, I realized I actually knew a whole lot more people than the 3.5 I imagined I knew.
What's more, most of those programs seemed to know them, too.
At the end of this connectivity feeding frenzy, it finally dawned on me that the software is actually smart enough to pick out the contacts from your address book and connect you to them, so now you're linked to the same handful of people you already have on email, in about 50 different ways; a sort of extended incestuous circle scattered across who knows how many programs.
Plaxo is okay, it has lived in my Outlook Express for a couple of years and occasionally tells me that someone I vaguely know has a birthday, or has changed their email address or their socks.
LinkedIn I haven't quite figured out yet, I only just signed on and I have exactly eight connections, but as the program keeps telling me, my connections have a total of 75,000 connections between them, hurrah. In response to which I am thinking: so what?!
But Facebook is totally crazy. Moments after I signed up, I received about 300 updates about the people I was connected with. It shares all sorts of completely goofy information, most of which I have no idea why anyone would want to know anyway. Also, I have been repeatedly bitten by the 15-year-old son of a friend of mine, who keeps challenging me to start Biting Chumps and Slaying Vampires. (You reading this, Tariq?!) Another friend has a daughter, whom I added to Facebook. Next thing I know, she's put me up on her stalker's wall! The whole thing is totally baffling and I haven't gone back since the night I signed up. But hush, don't tell that to anyone I know.
Which reminds me of why I disabled Yahoo messenger in the first place. I had three windows open, and got the wrong message in the wrong window by mistake. It was a genuine uh-oh moment, the sort that happens to all of us at least once, except sometimes it can get really tricky. Well, the instant reflex is to click on the little cross and shut down the window, right? Or anyway, that's what I did. Of course, I never heard back from that particular contact again.
Aha! Just as I finished writing this, another invitation to connect.this time on Flickr. So have a great Sunday, all, while I go sign up. After that, I'm scurrying off under my rock for a couple of weeks, to contemplate my navel.

Priya Tuli

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