OMG! Not another invite. Please, "friends," I beg of you.
They all start out the same. "Friend X has sent you an invitation." Because this invite has come by e-mail and not through the Postal Service, it's immediately clear that it's not for pending nuptials or a bat mitzvah. It's for yet another social networking site.
I have gotten at least five invitations in the past week to join the up-and-coming site Naymz. And I must say, I'm now doing my best to avoid sites of its ilk. It's nothing e-personal. It's just that my already limited free time is at stake.
I've already taken a vow of frugality, curtailing my formerly reckless spending. Now it is time to rein in my e-life.
My leisure time is drowning in a sea of friending, linking, adding and rounding up. It seems like every day, there's a new online site ready to set you up with password pals. The peer pressure is real.
The fact is, I manage my actual social life far better than my virtual one. I have my own operating hours, for instance, to coordinate time with friends who hang out too late on work nights. I take them to events like receptions that end by 10 p.m.
But with social networking sites, there isn't a clear beginning, middle or end. You start by snooping on friends' pages and posting pithy status updates, and next thing you know, you're losing hours playing Scrabulous, and you've slipped into a networking vortex.
I admit it. I have myself to blame. At first, I was strong, fighting hard against MySpace. I told myself I was merely setting up a skeletal page, you know, "just in case." After all, I'm not signed to a record label. I don't smell like Teen Spirit. I never got a clock on "Flavor of Love."
Since then, I've been pulled into three social networking sites: LinkedIn, a college alumni site and Facebook.
LinkedIn is harmless and well behaved. It's corporate and presentable. The alumni site lets me feel like I'm back on campus again, complete with the freshman-year dorm friends and every "whatever happened to that person" question answered in one quick search.
Then there's Facebook, the SuperTarget of social sites: hip, but at the end of the day, another shameless drain on my time.
I planned on virtually ignoring Facebook, just like I did MySpace. Then I realized I was already on there. You see, I attended a Las Vegas conference with friends last year. Before I knew it, people started e-mailing photos of me from the event that had been posted on Facebook. My mug was already on there. I needed to join it. Didn't I?
Since then, the site has taken over my life.
It started out like a small village, a boutique gathering of my friends. Then friends of friends, bosses and party promoters joined the fray. My page is now a gentrified metropolis.
Get this: A guy—someone I have never met—recently friended me. He is apparently a hot club promoter in Detroit.
Trust, I am perfectly happy with the South Florida social scene. However, Facebook has a way of tickling my voyeuristic nature. If I manage to leave Ocean Drive on South Beach to travel to Motown, maybe this new "friend" can usher me into just the right spot for a sighting of embattled hip-hop mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
And there's a grouping on Facebook for any fetish. Yes, as my group lists suggest, I really do believe that "Jem is Truly Outrageous," and that "Hip Hop is Dead."
I now send wall postings and messages to my legions of friends, and I live chat on the site for hours a day. It's great. Too great.
Between my multiple e-mail accounts, IMs, and my blog(http://miamiherald.typepad.com/frugalista/), I am a fully connected woman. I am not saying these social networks aren't fun. I'm just saying I need to unplug.
So, please, keep me off of your invite list. I don't need any more pals with passwords.
Natalie P. McNeal blogs at The Frugalista Files and is Geezeo's frugality expert.