Forget the TV, Now the Revolution Will Be Twittered

    July 29, 2009

Assuming haven’t spent the past 5 years under a rock, you can’t help but be aware of how much our social interaction and communications habits are changing. As a matter of fact, it’s getting to the point that hiding under a rock is less and less of an option. Most rocks these days are in 3G coverage areas and the few that aren’t will be shortly.

Communication has never been so easy, widespread, or cheap in the history of our species. The social web and the proliferation of mobile devices with access to it, has given ‘‘everyman’ unprecedented access to ‘everyotherman’. The traditional gatekeepers of information – what we used to call mass media (TV, newspapers and print media) have become at best, just another signal source and at worst irrelevant and unnecessary.

We are texting, Twittering, Facebooking – hell, I think there are still a few people MySpacing. We are doing all of this and we’re doing it pretty much everywhere and anywhere we go. We use our PC’s we use our laptops, netbooks and phones – our access options get more diverse and available every day it seems like.

But is this a good thing?

Like anything else, there is plenty of good and bad here. The biggest and most obvious benefit of this communication and access is that we can be updated and informed 24/7/365. We can chat from pretty much anywhere anytime. Many of us can work from pretty much anywhere anytime.

It’s the golden age of ‘anywhere anytime’ information and contact. Of course it’s simultaneously the biggest downside too. Trouble is, having the ability to work, chat and stay updated any time is that you end up doing all of the above all of the time. To put it bluntly, there is no escape here.

Sure, you can turn it off. You don’t though, do you?

Do you feel like you need a break from the ‘network’? Sound off in the comments.

What about the art of conversation? Some would argue it’s being lost in the shuffle, I think a more apt assessment is that it is simply evolving and suffering some growing pains in the process. We get our news and give our views, for the most part, about 140 characters at a time. That means we talk a whole lot, but we don’t say much when we do. We don’t have the time or space for details anymore.  The news is the headline and vice versa.

Not ideal, maybe, but the upside is we are at least participating in the news. We aren’t just having it spoon fed to us by ‘old media’ editors and interests.  So we are a little light on the details.  It’s a decent trade off I think and you never know, we may get a little more into the details as we move along.

Another big plus is the fact that our collective horizons are being broadened. A lot of people criticize Twitter as a platform for some rather mundane details. I have frequently heard comments like; ‘do I really care or need to know what Terrell Owens is doing RIGHT NOW?’.  Well no, maybe you don’t.  At the same time, I think that’s a fairly narrow minded take on Twitter.

Twitter updates, even the mundane ones, often give you some insight or perspective into how people in other parts of the world or in different social circles ‘see’ things on a daily basis.  I’m not saying that insight is always good or positive.  However, becoming more conscious of larger society or world views would seem to me to make us somewhat less disposed to or at least more aware of local or regional biases. I don’t see that as a bad thing at all.

I do have one major gripe with all of this though. Cell phone etiquette was already bad 10 years ago.  It’s getting much much worse now. Updating your Twitter, checking your Facebook and all that is fine and good…  but not if that attention is being diverted from someone sitting right next to you.

Do you think it’s rude when people you are with spend their time texting? What’s your take?

It’s not dissimilar to one of the classic rules of retail.  If you are with a customer in your store, and the phone rings, you never ever leave that customer to take a phone call.  Likewise, if you are out with family, friends or especially a client or customer, you should always give precedence to the people sitting in front of you over your contact list. We’ve all been on both ends of that and we all know it’s rude.

Beyond being just plain rude, it’s also more than a little weird. I have seen whole tables of people clicking on their phones, barely acknowledging each other.  Ironically enough, if you ask them, they are often working on getting some more people to join them. The sound of ‘social’ is the muted click of a rubberized keypad and no, I don’t think that’s cool at all.

Hopefully though, we can get the physically social reconciled a little bit with the digitally social. The Brave New World of communication is happening right now at Twitter-speed and while the abilities of our toys has somewhat outstripped our ability to use them appropriately, I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives.  It’s an exciting time to be alive really, as long as your batteries hold up.