Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails recently said he was abandoning social networking stuff, and Twitter in particular, because, well, because people tend to be nasty assholes. The negativity, particularly toward him and his relationship with his fiance, is what ultimately put him off. I guess people don't like that Mr. Dark-and-Depressed finally grew up and fell in love with a hottie.
I remember last year, Jason Calacanis, the guy who sold Weblogs, Inc. to AOL for a bazillion dollars and has since started Mahalo.com, quit blogging entirely because of the usual bullshit that ensued (he now posts photos of his dogs and lunch). Heck, Drew Carey got as far as two posts before he felt he had to shut the comments down due to nasty stuff.
Being famous has its own set of problems, but all of these situations are magnified illustrations of something we have to accept and deal with: Stupid people can use the Internet. I think what's most disheartening about it for celebrities is that there was a medium that would finally let them have more intimate interaction with fans, and now it has been overrun by idiots.
Ultimately though, the idiots are there at all levels. If you've ever read the comments on some random video that some 14-year-old anonymous kid posted to YouTube, you see they're everywhere. A lot of people try blogging and posting components of their lives online only to completely withdraw later.
Using these services is like being in a relationship. If you stop and realize that someone paying attention to you isn't worth all of the crap, you get the fuck out of the relationship, you know?
The Internet's creation of the "micro-celebrity" has made things difficult, too, and it really demonstrates the transformative nature of the medium. I mean, when I worked in radio, I'd talk to tens of thousands of people every day, and never know any better outside of the occasional stalker that showed up at a remote. With the Internet, there's a lot more potential for exposure, whether you want it or not, and it's distributed and potentially huge. Anyone can be that person.
I think that the people abandoning this stuff are probably doing the right thing, but I'd never dismiss the social Internet entirely. For all of the dumb shit you encounter, there's a sea of potentially rewarding contacts you can maintain as well. Most of the people I know using Facebook rarely add "friends" they don't know, but instead use it to stay in the loop with people that they do know. That's powerful stuff.