Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Trouble with Twitter

I first heard about Twitter a couple of weeks ago at a meeting I was attending for a client. The presenter described this latest craze in the context of online community building and social networking. According to an article in the latest issue of Fortune magazine, Twitter has roots in some pretty large-scale initiatives, helping to keep the public and firefighters current with developments in the battle against the 2007 California wildfires. That makes sense; it’s like emergency broadcast texting, kind of, I guess…but, chances are there aren’t 3 million “twitterers” tuned in just for that. But that’s about how many users there are of this “micro-blogging” service—whatever the hell that is. For as little as I contribute to this blog on a regular basis, this could be considered microblogging.

What’s fascinating is that as I write this, these terms aren’t even yet recognized by Microsoft Word. I have to add them to the dictionary. I refuse.

I can’t decide whether is the latest symptom or just another cause of our nation’s growing collective attention deficit disorder coupled with our unmitigated fear of being alone. How people can tolerate, and in fact perpetuate, this maddening continuous stimulation is a mystery to me. How they can function under its spell is frightening, because to function, you have to be conscious. I’m sorry, but, you can’t be doing anything with intention if you’re sending a Tweet and texting your roommate or your business partner while ordering your Orange Mango Banana Vivanno at the Starbucks drive thru. The more I witness of this perpetual explosion of nanotechnology, the more I believe it’s a miracle we’re not already extinct given our attention span.

Fortunately it hasn’t affected everyone. I also just read a neat article about a group of scientists at CWRU who are working on a tiny new cancer drug delivery device that looks basically like a nano-hairball. It’s genius, really. Where would that idea be if those docs stopped to Twitter all the time? Maybe they do, to update each other, but my guess is that their “tweets” would be along those lines and not on who they just saw with who else sipping a Banana Vivanno at Starbucks.

It’s no surprise that some of the world’s best doctors and scientists also played a musical instrument as a child. Their parents had the vision to make sure they had other means of developing dexterity, hand-eye coordination, concentration, imagination, and in the best cases, an artistic instinct to go along with the technical execution. There are I’m sure some kids who aren’t swept up in this insanity, but I don’t think I’ve seen a teenager all summer who didn’t have at least one electronic device glued to some part of his or her body.

I’m not sure where all these new developments spring from, or why. They just appear, get suddenly terribly popular, and then there is some new thing right behind it to displace it from its Throne of Cool.

The more I witness this, the sillier it seems. What could all these devices possibly contribute to my enjoyment of walk in the woods, a cup of coffee at my table in the morning, a conversation with my son or daughter, the thrill of watching an athlete’s defining moment on the Olympics, an understanding of myself, learning a new tune or playing an old one, or just living and breathing? Not a single thing.

As much great music as there is in the world, I think the longer I live and listen the richer and more beautiful traditional music becomes to me. That’s not to say I wasn’t sorry not to take my kids to hear Dvorak last Friday night at Blossom. And it’s not to say I don’t love a barn-burning bluegrass tune about 80 percent of the time. But nothing to me cuts through the din of techno-insanity like the sound of a single line drawn by a human voice or some other instrument.

I’m destined to be ever behind the times. I can rarely keep up with the WordTwist demands of my FaceBook pals, I haven’t updated my MySpace in weeks, and you know the ups and downs of this blog. I still can’t stand texting but tolerate it as a form of communication acceptable to my teenage son. To Twitter is not to be for me. But to you true Twitterers I wish you sweet tweets and hope that you’ll make the most of it rather than make it the next thing that takes over your life.

I keep pimping this new album by those Infamous Stringdusters but the whole thing is just flat-out superb so I can’t help myself. Here’s a young bunch of guys doing a good old-fashioned steamy little tune about the very simplest pleasures in life. From what I can tell by listening, none of them involve an iPhone, Nintendo game, BlueTooth, or even a Frappucino. I love the downright Delta bluesy flavor updated with the Dusters’ contemporary idiom. I hope you enjoy one called “Get It While You Can” – and whatever that means for you, I hope you do.


At August 15, 2008 1:32 AM, Blogger Ipsissimus said...

I'm even farther behind than you are - I don't even know how to get a Facebook page, have never visited My Space and keep getting invitations to something called "Linkedin" but am wary of online communities. After all - I don't get along that well in my real-life clubs. Online clubs seem a recipe for disaster for someone as socially backward as me. I'm just thrilled I can work my Ipod. Texting is a little beyond me at this point - I prefer a full keyboard to type, thank you very much.

At August 15, 2008 6:06 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Howdy, Ips! Hope you're well. I'm with you on all these. You're not behind the times, you're just present. I feel kind of silly that I started up all these things and don't keep up with them. I had to replace my phone the other day and the guy was trying to sell me even more features. He just didn't get it. I have a blackberry but like you, prefer the full keyboard. There will probably be a mutation in three generations of humans who are extremely thumb-dextrous, but that's just not one of my ambitions.

Say hello to Mr. Ips!


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