TechCrunch writer Paul Carr thanked readers for social media memories last month when he announced the complete shutdown of all his social accounts. Yes, that includes Facebook and Twitter. He compares reliance on microblogging (like tweeting rather than actually blogging) to becoming a digital recluse.
He also shared his thoughts on Leo Laporte’s angst over a mishap with Google Buzz, also reported in August.
Leo Laporte is the genius behind TwitTV – he’s highly respected and rightly so.
On August 22nd Leo noticed that nothing he fed to Google Buzz had posted publicly since the 6th. Since he uses a tool that also posts to Twitter, he was mute there as well. His rather uncomfortable revelation was that no one really noticed. Though, I’m willing to wager it’s more a case of no one saying anything to him. After all, there’s no “poke” button on Twitter. Still, Laporte’s frustration is understandable, though I have to ask, why didn’t he notice the issue much earlier? I use automation tools to post many things, but I do follow up frequently to make sure such posts hit the public stream. I can’t imagine going 16 days without checking my own accounts.
Back to Paul, who’s shut down all of his. Like Laporte, Carr plans to refocus his attention on blog entries, because both are realizing they have little to show for their efforts. When you microblog (e.g. tweet) you’re not only saying very little, you’re also not building a stronger foundation for your own web site.
In a quest to determine the strength of his own foundation, Carr was shocked:
“Throughout my earlier archives, I was able to find lengthy, sometimes surprisingly personal, posts … as I clicked forward through the archives to more recent years… the number of posts in each monthly archive dropped off a cliff, particularly where details of my personal life were concerned.”
Carr goes onto explain that his use of Twitter is what shook the foundation and, in turn, resulted in a history needing to be rebuilt.
While I respect both of these pros, I humbly… disagree. Here’s why:
It’s not micro-blogging that replaces lengthier posts (blog entries and articles). It’s laziness. Sorry, but if you’re serious about what you do, and are passionate to write about things and share ideas, then micro-blogging is used merely as a layer atop it all. It’s like those cute little flowers that adorn the top of a birthday cake. They aren’t necessary for you to enjoy the cake itself, but they sure do help gain more people’s attention, no?
I think Carr’s decision to shut down completely is extreme. After all, Twitter itself introduces you to people who may never come to know you otherwise. I may not have thousands of followers (I have just over 450 as I write this), but analytics shows me that a plethora of daily visits come from Twitter sharing. With microblogging, I’m able to reach a much wider audience.
Priorities need to be analyzed and re-analyzed regularly. In the ecommerce world, I constantly remind store owners to test their online stores – place orders, use all the features, kick the tires – because history shows that only a tiny fraction of shoppers will take the time to tell you when something’s wrong. The same goes for creating goals and prioritizing what we do each day.
We all have to recognize our weaknesses, and find ways to minimize or work around them. I’m forgetful. It’s not that I’m unable to obtain information, but rather lose sight of what needs to be done when I’m distracted. While at the office, I write it all down. When I’m not, however, I know my limitations. I’m not ashamed of this, and even tell my clients while talking on-the-go, “please email me a list of what we’ve just discussed so I won’t overlook anything.”
It is possible to blog, tweet, buzz, post updates to Facebook, etc. and still get the job done. For some, a decrease in blogging is due to the fact that it’s so much easier to sit back and type 140 characters or less. But I still don’t see how tweets and the like “replace” actual blog posts. In fact, nearly half my ideas are spurred by those microposts. So what we say on-the-fly can often be turned into a more in-depth statement accompanied by images and graphs.
Carr makes an interesting statement:
“And then along came micro-blogging – and, with a finite amount of time and effort available, the blog generation turned into the Twitter (or Facebook) generation. A million blogs withered and died as their authors stopped taking the time to process their thoughts and switched instead to simply copying and pasting them into the world, 140 meaningless characters at a time. The result: a whole lot of sound and mundanity, signifying nothing.”
Yes, micro-blogging converted quite a few bloggers into note-jotters. Perhaps some of them wanted it this way – after all, there’s a tremendous Twitter audience. But I say any blog that withered and died as a result still boils down to priorities. Like most things, you can blame society, not the service.
I also don’t see the accounts I follow and the things I post as mundane, signifying nothing. In fact, there are many more things getting done in the field I work in and things I’m passionate about – things that, otherwise, might never come to fruition. I’ve met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise – making some fabulous connections with people whom, via just a website, might never have been as approachable. I’ve also found many more ways to “give back” – as people I’ve come to know shed light on atrocities that have yet to become as newsworthy as they deserve to be.
To argue for a mass switch back from Tweeting to Livejournaling (or Bloggering, or Movable Typing…) in the interests of the permanent record is as ridiculous as campaigning for everyone to abandon instant messaging and return to letter-writing. The fact is people are busy (or lazy, depending on your view of humanity) and for the vast majority, immediacy will always trump posterity.
But for those of us who have had reason to look back at the past few years – like me writing my book, or Leo having “woken up to a bad social media dream in terms of the content I’ve put in others’ hands” – the realization is slightly terrifying: by constantly micro-broadcasting everything, we’ve ended up macro-remembering almost nothing.