Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Nothing makes you feel quite so old and un-hip as new media. As a professional techie who had spent most of my youth working with then-cutting edge technologies – email, desktop publishing, the Web, etc. – I thought I was immune to the normal process of technoscherosis. I never thought there would come a day when I said, “I just don’t understand young people with their (technogadget goes here)s.”

Cellphone? Check.
Smartphone? Check.
iPod? Check.
IM? Check.
Blog? C’mon.

But now I keep running into the world of web-based social networking, where I remain a hopeless dork. When we were distributing publicity for the SKS Prison Sutras event, I was told in no uncertain terms that we needed to get something up on Facebook. Not only had I not thought of that, I did not even entirely understand what that meant.

I have had similar so-square moments when SMS texting was mentioned or used. My free 25 text messages on my cell plan remain unused after the last two years. I think I tried it once, and it didn’t work for some reason, and I never felt compelled to figure out why. Jeez, I sound so much like my grandmother when I say that.

My only comfort (at least, the one that I’m clinging to) is that some of these phenomena are not really technological breakthroughs so much as youth-culture phenomena. An interview in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal with 22-year-old Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed it. The author did an informal survey of Facebook users and found that the primary, and often exclusive, use of Facebook was to keep tabs on prospective romantic partners and their current availability. Phew. It’s not that I’m square, necessarily: it’s just that I’m happily married. (Ok, let’s just assume, for the moment that the two are not inextricably linked.)

Text messaging was similarly dispelled for me once I saw people use it in its most common circumstances. “Oh, now I get it,” I said. “The only people doing lots of texting are stuck in boring classes or boring business meetings that they can’t escape. Or maybe hanging out in bars.” (While laptops are cool, laptop use in bars remains totally uncool.) And again . . . thank goodness I don’t feel the need to use those technologies.

Of course, some saavy adult user of these technologies is still going to slam me for my backwards ways and Luddite prejudices. They’ll tell me about Zaadz, or some other social network that might transcend mating applications. But those networks just don’t seem to have experienced same growth that solidly youth-oriented sites like Facebook or MySpace enjoy. There is only one niche of networking, personal-profile posting sites that has had the same growth, and it is quite honest about its intent: online matchmaking sites. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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