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Friday, March 27, 2009

The Computer Age Twit

(this was written three weeks ago, though I didn't get around to posting it until now.)

I was saddened to see that Facebook has changed it layout, again. I don’t care if you keep my information, the gov’t already has that, as do the phone companies, and 30 other entities, but at least keep a decent looking page design. Facebook, at its annoying worst; the superpokes, chainletters, and surveys, at least has a worthwhile goal. I can keep in touch with people I would not be able to otherwise. I can quickly shoot a sports link to a friend without having to write an email, share a video and let my friends chose who wants to watch it, and post notices that I’ve posted another rant on my blog, and they can chose to come or not.

What’s awful about facebook’s new design is that it’s trying to look like Twitter.
Twitter is the most useless invention in the history of mankind. It’s the most ego-centric and banal creation of the internet thus far. In this technological age of fetishism and personalization, this is the most superfluous. It has created a class of computer age twits.

I was at an REM tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. It was amazing. But there was a guy three rows in front of me who was twittering the entire concert. I wanted to go up there, tear his iphone out of his hand stomp on it. Not that it was distracting me. But who goes to a concert, at Carnegie hall no less, to see one of the great bands of all-time no less, to be focused on a three inch screen the entire time. He was typing, and reading, not listening or experiencing. Are we that lazy that we can’t wait 3 hours to get the set list of a concert? Or are we so self-centered that we want to be the first to post it? Or are we so egotistical that we want to be the envy of our friends, who have no recourse to correspond to a twitter post, except by another twitter post. It’s talking in short, decontextualized outbursts, without really communicating any useful information, or even talking at all. Which is why the media and politicians are so happy to embrace this new “hip” technology.

Even in his dystopian filter (or perhaps hardened utopian realism) Orwell was far too optimistic about the future of the English language and of the future of news. I have seen the future of news, and its 140 characters long. And you think talking heads are annoying now...

We’ve essentially reverted back to the telegraph. That’s what Twitter is, an online telegraph. Only with those, you chose your words carefully. You didn’t see this from FDR: Hangin with Stalin and Churchill STOP Played foosball STOP I like nachos END STOP) With twitter you can show the world how boring your life is (“watching reruns of Tougher in Alaska and considering buying Mighty Putty.”)

Seriously, if Gutenberg had foreseen that centuries down the line the written word would become so taken for granted in its ability to be disseminated to the point where language would become so superficial and meaningless, he would have turned his printing press into a plow.

A somewhat related video.

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