20 April 2010

Overwhelming feeds

I'm trying to understand the hatred that comes from people who dislike cell phones or text messages or (especially) Twitter. A few days ago, there was an article on Slashdot about Twitter and I noticed how commenters there have an ole fashioned befuddlement with social tech like this. A highly modded comment, responding to the news story that all public Tweets post March 2006 will be archived by the Library of Congress, quiped Your tax dollars at work...Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you have to! And this was modded insightful.

Typical, and common in the geekier online communities where members have jobs that make the most of knowledge connectivity, is a distaste for social connectivity. If code we're writing spits out some esoteric error, we grab the nearest search engine and work our best search-fu keyword combinations to find someone, somewhere who has seen the error and blogged about it. This is generally a successful research technique relying on others' chattiness. In contrast, if people we don't know and whose missives will never come up in our browser window choose to blog about some esoteric eatery, many geeks will become livid at such a waste of bits. The common arguments against such public activity streams are always the same and always self-satisfied: "I don't need to tell people what I just ate," "I'm not so vain that I need to be always in touch," or simply "I don't want to be interrupted by phone calls." There's always a certain pride in declaring this non-use. Few feel the need to declare that they don't read mystery novels.

(Is ranting against the iPad similar to this? Is preferring an open source tablet over a closed source one the same as banishing cell phones or Twitter?)

As I was pondering the Slashdot/Twitter oil-and-water thing, someone showed me what's possibly the preeminent example of curmudgeonly ranting over at The Old New Thing blog. The blog entry itself is a short denouncement of cell phones in the "in *my* day" fashion. The real gems are in the comments where veritable Old Person Hallelujahs can be heard praising the author: I love this; I've been anti-cell phone for years, I have been a computer programmer for 34 years ... I do not have a cell phone, and I don't want one, And when my cell rings and I don't recognize the number, I silence the ring. Do that often and I'll put you on my junk contact list. These people seem helpless before communication technology. Instead of not purchasing what they don't need, they have to be "anti". Their credentials are presented either for (1) proof that geeks can survive without tech or (2) proof that their opinion should be weighted more highly. They don't just ignore calls when they're busy but instead treat the callers aggressively, as if the caller knew they were busy and were purposefully interrupting them.

The blog entry criticizing cell phones is a pretty lame pseudo-excuse to say that technology weakens people. Cell phones make people dependent on communication systems. Google Maps makes people dependent on maps. Hammers make people dependent on tools? But it reveals in otherwise tech-savvy people a weakness for an idealized past. And, I'll admit, I'm surprised that my social group is susceptible to such nonsense.

[ posted by sstrader on 20 April 2010 at 1:01:35 AM in Internet ]