Wednesday, September 23, 2009


You know, I make an effort to remain relevant, so again and again, despite my better judgment, I return to Twitter and Facebook to try to figure out what the appeal is. These modalities seem to me to be the Web codification of the appropriately named quantity "small talk." Well, if there is a gene for chitchat, it was spliced out of me at the beginning.

But Web small talk isn't even small talk that is directed at anyone in particular, which drains it of whatever "small" charm it may have to begin with. In "real life," small talk at least may facilitate being with another person, however minimally or casually. If email, which at least has a designated recipient, is a message in a bottle, Facebook and Twitter (like the more otiose blogs around) are confetti cast upon the waters, social and semantic froth. Is life really long enough for these things?

As usual I cast my lot with Emily:

The Missing All -- prevented Me
From missing minor Things.
If nothing larger than a World's
Departure from a Hinge --
Or Sun's extinction, be observed --
'Twas not so large that I
Could lift my Forehead from my work
For Curiosity.


Retriever said...

Yup. I have never signed up for Twitter and got bored with Facebook after a bunch of my fellow Sunday School teachers badgered me to try it last year. Facebook can be fun to share photos, but I hate all the commercial plug ins. I look at it about every six months and people are usually saying the same thing they were before...I'd rather have a heated argument or read a lengthy screed written by a total stranger than trade froth with people who are actually real people in my life.

And Emily our Delphic oracle, as always.

Anonymous said...

"Pointless babble

By Stephen Fry
August 18th, 2009

The clue’s in the name of the service: Twitter. It’s not called Roar, Assert, Debate or Reason, it’s called Twitter. As in the chirruping of birds. Apparently, according to Pears (the soapmakers presumably – certainly their “study” is froth and bubble) 40% of Twitter is “pointless babble”, ( which means of course that a full 60% of Twitter discourse is NOT pointless babble, which is disappointing. Very disappointing. I would have hoped 100% of Twitter was fully free of earnestness, usefulness and commercial intent. Why do these asinine reports jump onto a bandwagon they don’t understand and why do those reporting on them relate with such glee that a service that was never supposed in the first place to be more than gossipy tittle-tattle and proudly banal verbal doodling is “failing to deliver meaningful commercial or political content”. Bollocky bollocks to the lot of them. They can found their own “enterprise oriented” earnest microblogging service. Remind me to avoid it."

That's from Fry's BBC blog last month when there was a little flurry of (pointless) excitement about the discovery that most people punctuate their lives with a series of pointless verbal doodling whether anyone is listening or not. If you are outwith the joys of profundity in human relationships (like poor emily was stuck in her own head all those spinstery years) scribbling words whether poetry or twitter may be a beneficial psychological balm.

fraise said...

Twitter, meh. Could never catch on; I much prefer the blog format, better for formulating thoughts.

Facebook, on the other hand, has been a blessing. It's allowed me to reconnect with several dozens of childhood friends, teachers, close family members (and block the abusive ones...!), hear how they're doing, see their new kids, watch new babies smile and giggle (fascinating when you're friends with the parent/s, especially when you still have photos of THEM as babies!), mess around with my brother and cousins on nonsensical quizzes ("Which Monty Python Skit Are You?" and the like), and more.

Facebook is great because you can make what you want of it. Third-party apps? I've only installed two in the years I've been on FB. Tired of seeing nonsensical quizzes? They can be hidden easily, while still keeping visible other types of posts. Privacy: very fine controls are available, even for people already marked "friend". You can define lists (that others cannot see) letting casual acquaintances/workmates/the like see only what you want, and true friends the rest, for instance. You can also block people -- without them knowing -- so that you'll never see them, and they'll never see you, not even in searches.

"Why not keep in touch with email/phone?!" Eh. In my particular case, I grew up a tomboy in a rural area. Most of my guy friends, whom I've known since birth in many cases, are the "loyal, honorable men of few words" sort. Not exactly the type to want to share emails or international phone calls, no matter how rare, about life with a woman who's not their wife. Facebook, being collective, makes it possible to acknowledge our friendship without crossing any of their "uneasiness" boundaries. For that, it's wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I don't necessarily believe twitter functions only on
a superficial frivolous level; as a platform for the banal exposition of the daily humdrum of meaningless life noise; as a screen for the discrete warblings of consciousness clutter. It can actually be a viable framework for the exchange/elaboration/refutation/reformulation of ideas; a portal into other universes of information/knowledge hitherto unknown; and of course it serves to connect like/unlike minded people which in the context of 'real-life' would be surrealistically and highly improbable.

But yes, it can also be a complete waste of empty purging, of filling space and time with words that don't add to the quality of anyone's existence ... Which is not unlike the calibre of real-life exchange when you think about it...

Microblogging imitating life?