How to deal

Tips from the school of real-life social networking

If size matters, then social networks aren’t so different from real life after all. Here are six important steps you can take to keep this whole social-networking phenomenon thing in perspective:

1 Ditch annoying friends
When the whole Friendster thing started, people rushed like crazy to rack up a big list of friends. It was like high school all over again, except this time the dorks ruled. But then people started realizing that many of the friends they rushed to add suck—the ones prone to posting 20 bulletins a day because they’re bored and lonely. Delete them without mercy? But they’re your friends; how is that going to make them feel? No, seriously, delete them without mercy. It’s the least you can do for them.

2 One you is more than enough
At last, social networking has given everyone the chance to take artsy pictures of ourselves and pretend to the world we’re deep, or tough, or sexy. It’s like phone sex and Second Life—full of false advertising. As the Strokes once complained: Is this it? Life on a wall is a peculiar existence, and one that still takes a nerdtastic amount of time to create, especially when it comes to making virtual you’s, or “avatars,” in Second Life, the virtual world that’s become so popular it’s got its own currency. That people take the time to do it seems to indicate that humans still want a more realistic, kinetic experience. But those same humans are still sitting in front of a screen spending time and money finding cool genitalia for their avatars. This chronic investment keeps MySpacers at MySpace, Orkutters at Orkut and the Crips at

3 Beware spooks
Facebook, the social-networking site that was formerly restricted to college students, pretty much rocks the house, except that the CIA uses the service to recruit future agents from colleges. Now that Facebook opened up its doors to the rest of the world … presto! Everyone knows who’s aspiring to be a spy. Yes, we’re being paranoid … but shouldn’t secret agents be paranoid, too?

4 Ignore terrorist threats
Lately I’ve been getting ransom notes … from They send me e-mails from people I haven’t talked to for 10 years, but won’t give up the address unless I pay them? Silly! Don’t they know God invented MySpace so I can harass my old friends for free?

5 Resist proliferation
OK, do we really need to segregate the Internet into increasingly inclusive microniches? Witness, a place for athletes, and, which helps you figure out what you want to do with your life. Flixster is a glorified movie-recommendation engine crossed with lets you input all of your financial information with the stated goal of helping you manage your finances with other people like you, who are saving up for helicopter lessons. Soon we’ll get blogs with our Social Security cards, so that every man, woman, child and Yeti will have their very own social network. There’s another way to find people with similar interests. It’s called a Web search.

6 Respect the rules of engagement
Just don’t act like a spammer and you should be fine, provided you have decent manners. If you need a refresher course in manners, see the lyrics to Pantera’s song, “Respect.”