Saturday, August 8, 2009

Facebook, Twitter, Boards, Texting, Blogs, IM, Email, Social Networking Sites---WHY?

I just added a bunch of rpg-related people to follow on my rarely used Twitter account. (I am at http://twitter.com/joethelawyer for anyone interested). I just deleted a lot of those people from my Facebook account, since I decided that I didn't really want to know that much about the personal lives of strangers, when all I cared about was their RPG-related thoughts. I also deleted most of my family members from my Facebook account, and created a new Facebook account just for them, because I decided I didn't want most of my family knowing all the details of my personal life. This caused me to add yet another ID/Password to my multi-page MS Word document, which already contained such info for 6 email addresses and their related IM interfaces, as well as DOZENS of Blogs, Social Networking sites, Boards, and all the rest of the Internet mediums of communication I make use of.

What a pain in the ass! And for what?

Back in the old days, when people used to write letters to each other, they took some time and put some thought into them. Before regular postal services, it could take weeks or even months for a letter to arrive at its destination. A letter brought news of a foreign or exotic place, information on loved ones, updates on the political, business, or socio-economic scene, and often conveyed philosophic/religious, scientific, or specialized knowledge or ideas. They were often many many pages long, and wide-ranging, touching on most of the topics above. Often, the topics were tied together, and discussed as an integrated whole. Above all else, they were thoughtful, and gave a person's opinion on something backed by facts and observations, and long conversations with other people with actual knowledge on a subject. They often were composed over a period of many days. Copies were kept as a record, and as a personal reference point. Such letters were passed along as a family legacy.

To be known as a respected "Man of Letters" was a mark of distinction. It was understood that the letters would be passed around amongst other "Men of Letters", and commented on in letters to their correspondents. Such letters even helped form the basis of the founding principles of the Revolutionary War in America, by creating an intelligent discourse amongst the founding fathers, and setting up networks which helped when it came time to take decisive action.

Compare that to the following:

Typical Text: "OMG she's so hot!" (sent to a buddy standing next to him in a bar)

Typical Twitter: "I wish it would stop raining"

Typical Facebook/Myspace: "Damn summer cold. Up half the night. Still it could be worse. Going to watch the Yankee game tonight, fold some laundry, make the kids lunch, read a book, relax, and then maybe watch the next episode of True Blood. I can't wait to see what happens to Erik! I hope he doesn't end up with Sookie, because I like Bill for her. They make a great couple. So romantic."

or even worse: "Jimmy Adams invited you to be part of his Mob in Mafia Wars"

Typical Blog: "Random comments about something I read in someone else's blog or on a board, shooting my opinion out there with no thought behind it, because everyone's talking about it, and I want to make my voice heard so I seem important and on top of things and relevant to the discussion."

Typical Board: "4e sux!" "Pathfinder Sux!" "Old School Renaissance, blah blah blah" "What are the 5 best modules of all time?"

Typical Email: Subject: Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: "Send this email to 100 people you know and you will win the lottery! It Works!"

Typical Instant Message: "Hey whats up? What are you doing tonight? What show? Really? I'm DVR'ing it. Cool. TTLY..."

The rest of the day we are either working, or at home eating, out with friends, or passively entertaining ourselves until we go to bed by watching tv or going to a movie, reading escapist fiction, or playing computer games.

What's being said? What's being communicated? Are we thinking about anything before we hack out something on the keys? Do we take our time and contemplate anything anymore? Is the means of communication making us less able to communicate well? Does it hinder our ability to think complex thoughts and tie things together? Does it make us more susceptible to black and white "us versus them" type arguments? Less able to discern the truth? More reactionary? Are faster, more instant forms of communication better for us as a society?

Doesn't seem so.

Why do we feel the need to talk so damn much about nothing of consequence in such an impersonal way? Does anyone even listen or give a shit? Do you know? Do you care?

Something is being lost.