Is Social Networking Broken?

Many social networking sites end up annoying their users with unwanted contacts and spam. Unless these problems are resolved, social networking sites' popularity could plummet.
Olga Kharif

Super-hyped social networking is exploding, with new ways to link up to others being added daily. Cell phone maker Nokia just released its Nokia Sensor, an application allowing users to create personal pages, filled with text and graphics, that they can share with others via their phones' Bluetooth wireless connections.

Online social networking sites are offering a multitude of ways -- IM, e-mail, Web-based calling and video -- for members to get in touch with one another.

It's not enough to allow people to contact one another, however. What many social networking sites are struggling with is, How do you facilitate social interactions without annoying users, big time?

Increasingly, social networking sites are being bombarded with complaints. Just check out this post. The author, Adam Kalsey, talks about how he keeps on getting invites to link up to other members of social networking site. The problem is, he has no idea who the people inviting him to join their group are.

Address book/social networking site Plaxo recently actually posted its official social networking manners guide, which can be found here. It asks users to stop bombarding others with spam.

Meanwhile, spam and unwanted contacts are just the tip of the iceberg here. A recent Cnet article points out that, once you come to a social networking site, "there's nothing to do there". Ok, I think this statement is too harsh. Yet, I know people who were really excited about social networking sites when they just popped up. Now, some of these friends are visiting these sites less and less often.

Unless concerns like spam and unwanted contacts are addressed, I am afraid social networking could go the way of the much-hyped dot-coms of the late 1990s.

Then, we'll have to keep in touch with friends via e-mail and old-fashioned phone calls. And who would want that.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.