This is a quote I love to come back to, time and again.

Even as a Web developer — a person who gets paid to go out and build up the great expanses of the Internet — I love this quote. And, to a great extent, I believe in it.

Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.

— Kurt Vonnegut, in A Man Without a Country


Google Buzz was released earlier this week. Facebook redesigned it’s main page. A lot of people paid a whole lot of attention to these things.

I had a good conversation with Carolina a couple nights ago, about the substitution of real social interaction for social networks. (Her friend Amanda expressed dismay at the whole thing, which is what got us on the subject.) And while I concede, there are plenty of uses for these communities — reconnecting with distant folks, planning events, having non-live conversations in comment streams — I can’t help but notice:

There are an increasing number of people I speak to that believe we’re placing far too much collective importance on these things. Me? I fear the people to young to remember dial-up Internet and earlier. And seriously, think about it: I’m sure there are some kids who communicate through these networking sites more than any other medium — text, phone, or in-person. This is all they’ll have ever known. (In practice, I’m sure the reality lies somewhere between texting and the Internet.)

In my wildest dreams, I imagine we’ll get to a point where this dawns on everyone and we have a large cultural push back. Maybe, like the whole/organic food fad, it’ll only be a minority. But sometimes I feel like the undercurrents are there.

Does anybody even remember Google Wave? Friendster? Xanga?