I just bought a new computer. It’s a tough thing to admit in these hard economic times, but I’ve been wanting a machine to try some video editing for some time now and having spent five days in Austin, TX last week at SXSW Interactive with some pretty amazing people, I was inspired to take the plunge (like the people in yesterday’s Washington Post article). As a first step to setting myself up, I looked for new Firefox add-ons to make my life easier and was reminded how many solutions are out there - web companies, iPhone applications, Firefox add-ons, people I know - to problems I didn’t even know I had.
But it also reminded me how many “solutions” are out there like strangers with candy trying to lure me into new problems. For example Twitter. It might seem like blasphemy to return from SXSW and bash the tool that essentially was birthed there (or at least reached adolescence) but let me explain why I’m not going to use Twitter even if I do see how it could be useful for others.
- Twitter doesn’t solve a problem for me. As Lev Grossman put it so well in a TIME article two years ago, The Hyperconnected, “Like any good pusher, services like Twitter don’t answer existing needs; they create new ones and then fill them.” While I like my friends, both real and virtual, enough to occasionally page through Facebook status updates to see what’s going on, I simply don’t want any more information to process on a daily basis. To put this in perspective, if I follow just 25% of the approximate number of people I am connected to from my other social networks and each of these people tweets just once per day, that is more than 90,000 more pieces of mostly useless information per year that I’d be compelled to research, react or respond to.
- Interesting things should be heard and not seen. Clearly I’m not a purist since I’m writing a blog post about something I hope at least someone will find interesting, but I do think most interesting comments should be made aloud and ignite a live dialogue. It seems that too often conversations never make it to traditional discourse, staying instead short-hand in an email chain, on a Facebook wall or back and forth on Twitter. I wonder what this is doing to the quality and growth of our thoughts. Plus for every interesting comment, there are likely ten other really, really boring comments. As Brian Unger reported on NPR, “Most people are surprised to learn that friends don’t care when you are showering, gardening or working out. There’s a good reason these activities are hidden. Because they’re boring and no one cares.”
- I don’t want to follow or have followers. Twitter language reminds me of the now infamous 14 year-old Volkswagen ad campaign: “On the road of life, there are passengers and there are drivers. Drivers wanted.” I don’t want to “conform, comply, copy or come after” anyone else and I don’t really want other people to do that to me either. As a huge proponent of collaboration, I’d rather search for ways to construct commentary and ideas with other people. To quote Brian Unger again, “It’s like stalking someone but without the inconvenience of sitting in a car outside their house on cold rainy night with a loaded gun in your lap.”
- I like my real friends and my life too much. After finishing part-time school which ate up most of my evenings for 2.5 years, I found myself working most nights until 8:30 or even after. Now, three months later (also inspired by SXSW), I’m on a quest for balance and to relearn to “be present,” or live for the people and experiences of the moment. The idea of thinking of everything in terms of what to post to Twitter for a group of people I’m not currently in front of, or worse to get a fix about someone else’s experiences (like Lev talked about in his latest TIME article Desperately Trying to Quit Twitter) seems short sighted to me, though I am totally guilty of this every once in a while with FB. Unlike John Mayer, I’d rather, and am trying hard to, experience life as it was before their were all these “solutions,” a time when people got by just fine without cell phones or email. I’ll see how it works. This paradox is captured in this short post by Shane Gibson, “Rapport Building it’s about being totally present…You can also follow me on Twitter…”