I’ve been using Twitter since last summer. I mainly use it as a pleasant time-waster (as if I don’t waste enough time!), but over the last couple months – weeks even – it has ramped up into a national mania. You might have noticed that I’ve already incorporated two different Twitter streams into this blog, including one called “nycotweets” (see above) that primarily offers quick links to interesting New York-related links and blog posts. These are items I want to bring to people’s attention, but don’t have enough time to blog about (and, I fear, many people increasingly don’t have time to read blog posts about).
Everyone’s moving into social media – enthusiastically or uneasily. Sean Kirst blogs about his new experiences with Facebook addiction. His post got me mentally picking around the edges of the social media trend. I remain slightly skeptical about it, and this is why:
I can’t help feeling like we’ve been here before. When our society experienced a shock to its system on 9/11, we should have slowed down and had a time of deep national reflection. That didn’t happen. Instead, we got increased spending — on wars (the ultimate spending spree), on gadgets, and especially on houses we couldn’t afford. It produced a busy, bubbly economy that proved not to be real.
Now, with another shock to our system — the economic decline that picked up speed last fall — we are again ramping up in frenzied activity. Social media nirvana, like the Ownership Society, is the new American dream. “Friends” and “followers” are amassed in great quantity. But what value do these so-called networks really have? Perhaps they subtly steal more time and energy from us than they give back. And if the last bubble resulted in an economic crash, what sort of crash might this next bubble end in?
A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education provides much food for thought:
Ten years ago we were writing e-mail messages on desktop computers and transmitting them over dial-up connections. Now we are sending text messages on our cellphones, posting pictures on our Facebook pages, and following complete strangers on Twitter. A constant stream of mediated contact, virtual, notional, or simulated, keeps us wired in to the electronic hive — though contact, or at least two-way contact, seems increasingly beside the point. The goal now, it seems, is simply to become known, to turn oneself into a sort of miniature celebrity. How many friends do I have on Facebook? How many people are reading my blog? How many Google hits does my name generate? Visibility secures our self-esteem, becoming a substitute, twice removed, for genuine connection… Friendship may be slipping from our grasp, but our friendliness is universal.
Even wordy blogs might be growing as obsolete as the much-lamented newspaper business, which is why I grudgingly accept that a little side project I’ve long wanted to do has got to be Twitter-based and not blog-based. It’s a Twitter stream called OutdoorsNewYork, and offers items of interest about camping, wandering wildlife (with an emphasis on unexpected encounters — think: Fairmount’s bear), and the New York/DEC parks system.
Because… you just can’t fight social media.