It's funny that I can't quite seem to get into the newer systems, like Facebook, Tumblr, Foursquare and whatever the hell the next thing will be called. In fact, my high point of internet participation occurred more than ten years ago. There was once an online forum that was built differently from the standard bulletin board, and I posted there quite regularly. When I wasn't, I was chatting away constantly on AIM. Sometimes I had more than eleven conversations going at once. I was a fairly popular participant, and the folks seemed to contact me naturally. At the time I thought it must be my "reputation," but I suspect it was actually because I was friendly with the creator/sysadmin, who regularly observed, patrolled and posted on his community. I was very actively concerned with maintaining this "reputation" as a fun, fun-loving intelligent person who was the ideal member. I chose my words carefully (most of the time), sought opinions on incomplete posts, talked to just about everyone who attempted to make contact, and always, always used punctuation. I pulled people in and made them feel good by quoting them in my profile, and I remembered all the little in-jokes, which I used to create drawings, posts and the like that made others feel pleased. In essence I was using these abilities to craft a circle of allies.
Since that board collapsed, I've steadily been pulling back. Over a decade later, it's just too much of a pain in the ass to log in on AIM unless Gmail does it for me.
Not too long after that community died, I switched to another anime-based message board, where I wound up finding some amount of success in the RPG section. This period is, in fact, where my journal name comes from. I worked my way into a main character in one of the main RPGs. Reading what I wrote back then makes me wonder why so few people ever told me I needed help. Did I really seem like I had it together? I talked all big about how role playing characters are really just a facet of their creator's personality, and while I applied that to myself to a degree, I steered far clear of ever realizing why I wrote such depressing drama crap so damn well. Looking back, I can see myself falling to pieces even then. It was no wonder I couldn't last, and I eventually wound up quitting. Still, I can see that during that time I maintained many of the same connection-building patterns, including allying myself with major players.
That was the last time I really pulled those skills together. When I joined Livejournal in 2001, I was riding on the crest of those efforts, as I brought or joined several RPG members here. As they fell away, and as I annoyed or bored people to death and they unfriended me, my connections on the internet began to fade considerably. Around this time I began attempts to promote my own websites via participation in communities, but compared to my past efforts, something wasn't there. I had a brief revival with Ragnarok Online, and then I seem to have stopped bothering.
My increasingly low output generates increasingly few responses, which in turn leaves me bored and even less prone to posting anything anywhere. If part of the allure of the internet is this potential for group-building via constant feedback, then I have all but checked out of the system. My email inboxes rarely contain anything other than spam from Jo-ann's, Barnes & Noble, Borders and so on. Few people comment on Livejournal. Few people use Facebook to actually reach me. I am no longer interested in being a major player online, so I have no presence built up anywhere but Livejournal. Early on in this journal's history, I wrote that I wanted to be big on the internet. That idea is horrifying to me now, but the desire for social connections remains.
Since Livejournal is my only constant, I have a tendency to focus on it when other people have moved on. The decline in responses has many factors, but one of the big ones is how Livejournal is no longer the thing, and many have migrated elsewhere (read: Facebook).
I've been trying to use Facebook more often, but it is difficult for me to get into it. The shorter/more frequent format is one part of the problem. I like thinking and reasoning things out, and I like typing about my thoughts, as though it will somehow help others understand how my mind works and therefore "get to know me." For me, going into detail is a pleasurable thing.
Facebook features the constant feed of information, which is both a punishment and a reward. I find this problematic, for by necessity, the more we update, the more diluted the content's value becomes. It grows duller. We call each other friends on Facebook, but knowing when someone else is in the grocery store, at the movies or even in the bathroom does not make me a friend. It makes me nothing more than an approved but inadvertent digital stalker.
I've often wondered why we bother checking in/posting every few minutes for every little thing or thought that happens in our lives. Instant communication by text, Facebook or whatever is instant gratification, especially when compared to old methods like letters. It also gives us a feeling of satisfaction to stay "on top" of all the updates by checking constantly, even if all the updates are just Farmville (or whatever the big thing is now) requests. At least we haven't missed anything.
The sysadmin I mentioned earlier kind of went nuts on me, and the damage to our friendship was unrepairable. We haven't spoken in years. He used to talk to me about all sorts of things, from anime to social interactions online to targeted advertising techniques. Sometimes I wonder what he would think about all this "social media" crap. Mostly, though, I simply read the news and then go offline, since I get about as much contact there and my back hurts less.