This is painful to me as someone, long ago, who considered herself to be part of the latest technology trends. Instead of an engagement ring, I asked my fiancé for a Mac Plus—cutting edge at the time, it allowed me to lay out the pages of my little magazine, section-by-section (the screen not big enough to see even a whole, small-scale page). And as a librarian, I used to search online databases for a federal agency, cranking out mega-searches sometimes worth hundreds of dollars.
But now I’m confronted with little icons for Digg and RSS feeds and bookmarking tools when I go to other web sites and I don’t know why I should care. At a blogging workshop I attended, the instructor told us we needed to know about such things, but as she mentioned them it was like she was talking to me from a distant tunnel—I just couldn’t hear her. Such things are not part of the Internet landscape I have grown to be comfortable with—Daily Show videos, Yahoo email, the Washington Post online, my Facebook page, the county public library online catalog.
There are two particular things I don’t understand that I’ll mention today: Twitter and Technorati. (I suppose this could be a series—“Cranky Middle-Aged Woman Complains About All the Technology That’s Passing Her By”—should I choose to look at other Internet features in the future).
1. I don’t understand the usefulness of Twitter, except to stalkers and people engaging in affairs who are trying to let their paramours know where they might be able to hook up.
Twitter entries I found just now:
- Eating chocolates right out the box.
- is thinking of eating out tonight, but would love some company
- Figuring out what we're going to do today. Oh, wait, now I remember: NOTHING.
I assumed that Twitter was mostly for high school and college students (and, as I said, people who might want to be stalked or have love affairs), but when I was looking through the search results just now I saw some pretty middle-aged looking people doing pretty typical (boring) things.
As a writer, I worry that this is what people are reading now instead of reading books, that things like Twitter are contributing to our already short-attention-span culture. It seems an outgrowth of the ability to click on endless TV channels and Internet hyperlinks. The other worry is that the people who write these Twitters might fancy themselves writers, so they feel compelled to flood cyber-space with all their interior thoughts, which turn out to be superficial and limited. This will make it harder to find (and justify placing) good writing on the Internet.
2. I don’t know what Technorati is exactly, but I saw it on someone else’s blog last week and when I clicked on the icon, it somehow led me to a place where I could put the icon on my own blog. So I did, totally not knowing what Technorati could do for me, or why I would need it. It was an experiment from which I’m not sure I’ll be able to interpret the results or even recognize any results if they are there.
If any other writers are using Twitter or Technorati to good effect, feel free to share them in the Comments line below. I can't say that it will help me understand them better, or make me want to use them, but maybe if enough people try to tell me about this stuff, the voice(s) coming from the tunnel will be loud enough for me to almost hear them.