One thing that social networking sites do very well is nag the user. Once you're on Flixter or Reunion.com or Twitter or Fandango or whatever, there's a seemingly endless series of emails telling you of someone visiting your profile (and you can find out who, by upgrading to a paid account) or about some cool new feature you ought to try as soon as possible. If you actually log on to the site, the screen will crankily inform you that you haven't yet used the new poll feature or created a quiz or added photos or told the world about your five favorite movies.
Anything that requires a paid account I can generally do without, so if you've signed my guest book on a school reunion site, I'll never know it was you. Sorry. Nor will I pay to access those genealogical and government databases. But if all the site wants is for me to type a few movie titles, upload an avatar thumbnail or click a button next to some actor's name, I'll probably do it. Just last night I spent at least half an hour clicking through Amazon recommendations. It wasn't a total waste of time: I added two Scalzi titles to my wish list, and found out about a few other titles that interested me.
And tonight it was Flixter that caught my attention. Specifically, it was Flixter's page of rotating, user-created polls.
Which actor is better ?
A Johnny Depp
B Brad Pitt
C Harrison Ford
D Denzel Washingon (sic)
I probably clicked through these things for an hour or longer, answering some and skipping others, hoping in vain to find one that was interesting or insightful or relevant to my own tastes. No such luck. Instead I was treated to a series of questions about Johnny Depp*, Tim Burton and/or Orlando Bloom (separately and in combination), Nintendo games, celebrity scandals, The Family Guy and Disney Channel shows, polls about tween heartthrobs from High School Musical and elsewhere, and at least a dozen virtually identical polls asking which Harry Potter book or film is the best/my favorite. Nearly every poll simply asked for the best actor, singer, or film from the list provided. The names Depp, Bloom, Knightley, and Witherspoon frequently appeared as options. The names Bogart, Heston, Peck, Chaplin, Cagney, Dietrich, Davis, Garland, Monroe and Swanson did not appear once. A few people set up polls about fashions, cars or favorite colors, whether their pets are cute, and whether the pollster himself or herself is hot and should date some Disney Channel star.
*An excellent actor, but I don't feel the need to say so once every 35 seconds.
Gak. Gahh. Ick. Bleah.
And oh, yeah: which band is the best: the Beatles, Mingmongs in Aspic, The Curtlies, Jojo McFriendly, Billy Boytoy or Nothing But Darkness and Pain Ever Again. Okay, so I fudged the names of all the young artists whose work I've never even heard, nor care to. But you get the idea.
Clearly, these polls aren't intended for a 51-year-old accountant and fantasy fan who grew up listening to the Beatles. They're for kids aged 11 to 19, with a cultural memory that gets pretty vague looking back past the millennial divide, and who can't be bothered to check whether maybe someone asked about Harry Potter already. Spelling is, of course, irrelevant, even if it means that an actor's name appears in the poll as Jonny Depp, Jhonny Dep and even Jhonny Deep.
Eventually, of course, I got disgusted enough to tear myself away. I stopped looking for any redeeming value in the Flixter polls, anything that I could conceivably want to see and give an opinion about. Presumably the fans of HSM, HP, PotC and those kids who play Zack and Cody are having fun making and answering these repetitive, misspelled, one-question polls. I should just accept that this little piece of the Internet, like MySpace and Facebook, is not for me. I'm too old to appreciate it. Heck, one poll asked my age, and I had to click on "19-22 or above." Yeah, just a bit above that. Thanks for asking.
Still, the Internet is big enough and cool enough to accommodate polls about Orlando Bloom's goofiest photos, as well as Draco Malfoy fanfic, in-depth discussions of the still-unanswered question posed by the show title Doctor Who, legal and ethical issues associated with copyright, reviews of new software, tips for getting a literary agent, anti-Scientology videos, amusing anecdotes about life in an old folk's home, book reviews of YA fantasy novels, Round Robin Photo Challenges, and an infinite supply of other topics. I don't have to like or appreciate all of it. I just have to find and cultivate the bits of Internet that I like, and have a discipline to ignore the rest rather than waste time on it.
But for the record, my dogs are cuter than their dogs. Even if I didn't create a poll about them.