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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Take Your Twitter and Shove It: An Argument for Being Less Connected





If you are old enough to remember VHS players, the big joke back then was people who were too stupid to program their machines so they had a flashing 12:00 on the time display. I never learned how to program a VHS recorder; I never even tried. There really wasn’t anything I wanted to record so why bother? I have had bike tires that have lasted longer than the VHS recorder era so excuse me if I feel vindicated in my refusal to master this bit of “modern” technology.

I’m not anti-technology. I’m not exactly standing breathlessly on the cutting edge of modern innovation but I’m certainly no Luddite. I have a laptop, a cell phone, and an MP3 player just like everyone else on the planet. However, every so often something pops up on the cultural horizon that I just know that I can live without—at least I know that I can hold it at bay longer than most people. I just don’t think that letting yourself get carried out to sea with every single tide of the technological/marketing zeitgeist is the way to live your life.

First of all, I don’t have the slightest idea of what this new phenomena is. I queried it and here is the first thing that popped up: Twitter is a free social messaging utility for staying connected in real-time. I didn’t bother following the link because that one sentence already gives me more than I really ever cared to know about the subject. “A free social messaging utility for staying connected in real-time.” Excuse me, isn’t that what human speech is all about? And what does “staying connected” mean…exactly? Do you mean that human speech, letters, telephones, text messaging, and emails aren’t enough these days to “stay connected?” If you want the truth I only need about half of those tools I mentioned in the last sentence.

I often think that we are already too connected, way too fucking connected. We are so connected that we have lost a good portion of what it is about us that makes us interesting and unique. Instead of facilitating self-expression and creativity, most of these new tools of communication work to pound us into conformity while extinguishing anything that can even remotely be thought of as individuality—whatever the hell that is in our era of the orthodox tyranny of mass marketing. If anything, these new innovations have lowered our collective ability to relate to one another and have reduced all of human communication to a single sentence: RU GOING 2 THE MALL?

My answer, in a nutshell: Fuck no I’m not going to the fucking mall.

I was talked into creating a Facebook account a little while back and promptly deleted it about three days later after being totally freaked out by the whole thing. I realize that shunning Facebook just shows my advanced age and puts me in the same discarded ice flow where they put the old ladies who can’t open email attachments or answer a cell phone. At least on this drifting coffin of ice I won’t be bothered by appeals to join in the Twitter happenings of some celebrity.

I said the same thing about cell phones a long time ago although I knew that they weren’t going to go away. I resisted right up until cell phones became a lot less expensive than home phones. I have always hated text messaging, and although I still think it is retarded I use it here in Spain because everyone I know uses texts instead of calling because it is a lot less expensive. It’s not like I’m like some crazed Japanese soldier holding out on a Pacific island who is still fighting the Second World War, I just don’t believe in jumping into some new fad just because it’s out there. If Twitter has any merit it will be here after I have gone through a couple of pairs of bike tires. Or it may go the way of the VHS recorder.

P.S. WTF! While searching for the appropriate photo for this essay I plugged “12:00 VHS Recorder” into Google Image. For some of the matches I got a picture of OJ Simpson, a dead deer, a fat guy in a little coat, James Bond, a couple of pictures of girls in bikinis, and a lot of other completely random crap.