Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Electronic Life

With this whole internet thing, I tend to vacillate between all and nothing. For those of you who've sent email I haven't answered, submitted comments to which I haven't responded, all I can offer is that I'm in the middle of a downswing. I'm generally a sketchy correspondent at best, but I've been even more of a slacker lately. I still really like hearing from you, though.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about my online life lately. I like having a blog to share our family goings-on with family and friends. I like occasionally sending my opinions out into the great void. It's neat to read what other people are writing, and I have a good dozen blogs that I like to read. A person could literally spend all day, every day reading these things. It takes some discipline to stay caught up while simultaneously filtering out the noise.

When I realized that I was missing out on some of the doings of friends simply because I wasn't on Facebook, I signed up. I have to say I like the idea of Facebook. It's fun to catch up with people from my past lives and bring them back to my present. For someone who moves around and tends to travel in varied and diverse social circles, this is a fantastic device. It is also very noisy. Any number of friends who are active and you can spend an entire day reading their updates and taking quizzes. Again, it requires discipline to not just hang out there all day. And, there's always the vague suspicion that it's exhibitionist and annoying. This video pretty well sums up my reservations:

And then, of course, there's Twitter. I had dismissed it as yet another bit of digital noise I could do without, even as friends were adopting it. And then, there was that story about the guy who was sprung from political imprisonment when he used Twitter to tell his friends he was arrested. Well, who wouldn't want a following like that in this day and age. Our current regime doesn't believe in the constitution much, so it would be good to have Twitter as an ace in the hole. So, I'm findable there. I follow a few friends, a blogger I like to read, and the Phoenix lander. Oh yes, I get text messages from someone pretending to be a machine on Mars. That's pretty cool, because I know when the super amazing stuff is happening even if I'm not by my computer. (I have it send text messages to my phone.)

I'm a bit confused as to the etiquette of Twitter, though. It seems a little like electronic stalking to me, which is why I haven't added two of the most widely-read bloggers I read. Isn't it creepy? I never "tweet" anything I wouldn't mind random people reading. But, anyone can choose to "follow" you and see what you're up to, and you have to block anyone who signs up that you don't want. You can also browse by location and see what a whole mess of people (complete with pictures, in many cases) you're not following at all are up to. That makes me a little nervous, and I hope that no burglars, G-men, missionaries or serial killers are on to this as a targeting tool.

So, when I evaluate the kinds of online lives available these days, it's hard not to see it as an attention-seeker's version of a dirty sock. And, I certainly don't want to leave that lying around for the entire world to see. There are articles out there about the up-and-coming generation's very different understanding of personal privacy, and when I read them I feel like an old curmudgeon for suspecting these whippersnappers of naivete and an unhealthy preoccupation with self. And then I realize that I'm giving it a go myself. I can point to my reasons for signing up for these various online activities, but I have no clear understanding of why I keep participating. Very seductive, this electronic lifestyle. Also noisy and confusing.

I'd be interested in hearing about the electronic lives of my readers. What's Web 2.0 doing for/to you?

1 comment:

Niki Naeve said...

What is twitter and how can i use it to get out of political prison?