Friday, September 5, 2008

Not so a-Twitter: Do writers need to know about all the Internet's gizmos?

Maybe it’s my age (I went to college with a Remington manual typewriter), but I don’t see the usefulness of a lot of the gizmos on the Internet. Last year I managed to make a Facebook page and start a Facebook page group—admittedly with the help of my teenage son. And I’ve started a few blogs and web pages, though I’ve yet to figure out how to publicize them or help other people find them.

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.
[Found quickly by searching “eating” and “going.” I don’t know anyone on Twitter to search for.]

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.


Unknown said...

I like twitter's brevity/simplicity. There are a few people who enchant me--you among them. Knowing what is happening in those lives ----around the world---might keep me open minded out here in WV.

Unknown said...

Amen. I am Beth Blevins, The Realtor and Reluctant Blogger. Months ago I did a google alert on my name so as to learn of anything nasty a fellow Realtor might say about me online (good advice I got from another Realtor who constantly makes nasty inuendos towards other agents). I've never heard anything about me, but I'm constantly updated on you and your writing.

Since then, I've read lots of your writings, musings, etc and I like them very much. Years ago I married a Blevins who's family is from Spruce Pine, NC. I live in Cabarrus County near Charlotte. I have since jettisoned the Blevins man, kept the name and married a fellow from York County PA. I just returned from DC and Balitmore last week --I actually honeymooned in Ellicott City in October.

Anyway, I hate the idea of a permanent record of people rambling on about nothing that no one cares about, especially if it's real estate market related blah blah which will be out of date in 30 days. How boring can that possibly be?

What used to be fun, buying and selling real estate, has become a job with hundreds of thousands of real estate agents blah blahing all over the place about the same stupid stuff to increase the Google juice fueling their websites which are probably just templates anyway. It's awful. I know I should do the same thing, but I just cannot bring myself to join the herd and prattle about stuff I would never be interested in reading.

So when I get the alert that says Beth Blevins has written another stimulating blog I go there and read it. I'm ashamed to say, I sometimes imagine it's mine and that I have the time to sit quietly and write about nothing perhaps, but it is the nothing I am interested in.

Blog on Beth Blevins.

Beth Blevins said...

Wow to the last comment. This makes the second Beth Blevins that I've been in contact with via the Internet and both of you have shown yourselves to be eloquent and kind. Maybe the name "Beth Blevins" is a wonderful gift and I shouldn't be scrambling around for pen names? Wear it with pride, my fellow Beth Blevinses!