Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Twittering Your Life Away

(Click on the cartoon for a larger version.)
Every generation comes up with new ways to waste its members' lives. Watching television and cruising used to be it, though cruising's imperilled by high gas prices. Television is still quite with us, even though total viewership is down: witness the obsession with "Lost" or "24" or "The Office" or "Heroes." More recently, IMing (AOL Instant Messenger and the like) found ways to consume hours of peoples' lives in frivolity; it's still around, though apparently not as compelling as it once was. Computer/video games steal some people's lives, but the waste-monger getting the most attention these days is social networking.

Of all the social networking media, I find Twitter particularly interesting, in that most tweeters seem to think other people should be endlessly fascinated with the minutiae of their daily lives. It's narcissism, isn't it?...though most people prefer to call it "keeping in touch." Narcissism for the sender, distraction for both the sender and the receiver (a-musement, "not thinking"), and at the end you have a vaporous pile of ethereal nothing. Maybe someday, Twitter will turn into something useful. It's not there yet.

I came across this blog entry today. Although this guy calls himself extreme for having a dozen ways of reporting on himself, he seems representative of the spirit of the age:

If you are like me then you have at least one or two social networking accounts.... I may have taken it to extremes but I eventually went and got a FriendFeed account which tied most of them together. By doing this when I update my Friend Feed status I update my Facebook and Twitter accounts. but here is where it gets tricky. If I update my Flickr, youtube, my Google Talk status, one of the many blogs, or my 73s.org accounts, Friendfeed will pull from them and publish the update out to the others. As these updates get pushed to the Twitter account my Live Spaces account will post that update as well. Another cool thing is if I share an item from Google Reader, it will also push that and any comments to Friend Feed, and then back out from there. Duplicate items can happen, and I am still working on that, but all in all it is easier to really only manage one or two instead of the 12 I once had to cut and paste too.

Now If I could get the Zune Social updates to replicate as well, I would not have to update anything separately.

Do I really need to let the whole world what I am having for dinner? If you have to ask then you just don't understand. It is cool to be able to let you friends and family know what is going on, and to share articles that have caught my eye. Do I have to? no not really, but it is cool, and I am still having fun with it. When it becomes a chore then I may have stop. Until then, keep connected, and share what tips you have for linking your social networking in the comments.

I don't think of myself as a Luddite, and I'm not opposed to electronic communication. I'd have trouble living without e-mail, and obviously, I keep a blog, which I admittedly hope a lot of people will read. But I really don't think anyone cares which type of Trader Joe's cereal I ate this morning, nor whether I put yogurt or milk on it, nor whether I ate it out of a cup or a bowl, nor whether I was sitting in the kitchen or out on the screened porch when I consumed it. If that's the level of detail you want from your friends, then I think you need to get a life.


  1. Arnold,

    Yogurt on cereal? Sounds awful.


  2. i do view the 'age' as a bit narcissistic, however the content is permission based, making the reader of content ultimately in control...making it a phenomenon that someone wants to know your cereal type rather than someone wanting to tell of their cereal type.

    Also Narcissus had little control over his reflection, modern man has extreme customization power of his online image, creating an all new story of self absorption.

  3. Hey Derek,

    Yogurt is great on cereal--especially the Greek kind of yogurt. I like to add a little honey and fresh blueberries, too.

    I don't know about the electronic age, and the social networking thing. I see what Arnold is saying, but then I check facebook and see another side of it--like, how a friend uses it to encourage his college age kids and joke with his wife during the day about her adopting an abandoned kitten that morning and putting its picture on facebook without him knowing about it yet (this couple is so serious at church and it's really great seeing them have fun).

    As for the amount of detail and needing a life, I think it would depend on the kind of relationship a tweeter has with his followers. If they are intimate or somewhat emotionally involved, sometimes the most mundane information can be interesting. If they are not, then, the fact that this tweeter likes Trader Joes and the follower does too can create a superficial feeling of closeness.

    As for me, I can imagine calling up a good friend and asking her, first thing, what she's up to. If she responds that she's on her back patio with her dogs drinking lemonade, I can picture her doing that because I've been there with her doing that very thing a few days ago. And then we launch into whatever we need to talk about over the phone, most often on a much deeper level.

    The problem with tweeter, is that it stays on that small talk level.
    It's too confined in the broader spectrum of communication and connecting deeply with people. If I tweeted, I wouldn't use it like I commonly see it tweeted. Perhaps, like all fads, everyone will eventually lose interest.