Death by Treacle

From The American Scholar, on a culture built on rewarding the gradual refrain from responsibility:

‘As we move from a culture that celebrated risk to a more cautious culture of “risk factors” and “at-risk” people, victims of random, tragic fate become more monstrous to our sense of fairness. This and the corporate-class bogeyman of sentiment-drunk jurors who grant extravagant personal injury awards must explain the growth of product warning labels such as “Shin Pads Cannot Protect Any Part of the Body They Do Not Cover,” “Wheelbarrow Is Not Intended for Highway Use,” “Do Not Use Hair Dryer While Sleeping,” or “Eating Rocks May Lead to Broken Teeth.”’

And the “lite intimacy” of social media: 

‘Lite intimacies in social media create a background din of disclosure, confession, closeness, and familiarity. It isn’t inherently fake or objectionable, and if it were only a semantic problem, I wouldn’t be concerned. But there is danger, it seems to me, of losing our coordinates. There’s a danger that the lite intimacies of the sentimental culture might deplete the resources of our true intimacies. If the intimate building blocks that once belonged mostly to a domestic partner or family—the sharing of a million little details about our moods, and what we ate for breakfast, and our daily rituals and secret gripes—now belong to everyone on Facebook in the world of lite intimacy, then how much deeper do we need to go to find the everyday material out of which to recognize, solidify, and build that deeper intimacy? Do we have to scream emotions louder to be heard over the cacophony of the lite intimacy? A mild hypothesis for the new social life of our age: the easier it is to be close but not intimate in public, the easier it is to be close but not intimate in private.’

Thank God It’s No Longer #FollowFriday

Warning: another soapbox moment Twitter rant.

I like Twitter. I like it much more than Facebook, its evil not-so-twin. I particularly like the fact that, unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn’t force you to take part in social politics, like be-“friend”ing someone you went to school with two decades ago and never spoke to, and suddenly you are “remembering” when it’s their birthday and joining their other 500 “friends” to say Happy Birthday! Have a wonderful day!, to which they respond the next day with “Wow! Thanks all for the wonderful wishes. So special to be remembered!”. Yeah right.

#FollowFriday/#FF seems to me to veer dangerously close to this type of inanity. (For those of you with your heads in the sand not on Twitter, go look at How #FollowFriday works).

I understand the endorsement factor. Being included in a #FF tweet tells other people who might not otherwise find you worth following. But like the “friend” situation on Facebook, it messes with natural selection. I don’t want to follow someone because someone else says that I should. I choose to follow people based on discovering that their Twitter activity somehow adds value to my life. Sure, sometimes I’m wrong, and I may miss someone important, but I would rather miss someone important than end up following a bunch of people who haven’t earned my attention.

The beauty of Twitter is that by paying attention, you end up finding the people you want to follow without silly “traditions” like #FF. Like a particular columnist? Start following them on Twitter, and it’s likely that soon enough they’ll re-tweet someone else who you then discover is also worth following, and so on. Or if you retweet them, they may start following you, and so on. It’s the activity of attention that makes Twitter worthwhile – not attention for the sake of attention.

Which is why I also don’t like this “tradition” of welcoming new people on Twitter and asking your followers to follow them. I have good friends in real life who I enjoy having a glass of wine and a natter with. Chefs whose food I happily pay good money to eat. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to start following them just because they join Twitter. Show me that you’re worth following, and you’re in.

And if I then retweet or mention you, please don’t bother thanking me. I get that it’s polite to acknowledge acknowledgement, but can’t we just let the subtleties of interaction be without all the extra noise (“Thank you.” “No, thank you!” “No no, it’s you who must be thanked!”)? My mention of you is (perhaps) an endorsement to my followers to follow you, and you can thank me by continuing to add value to my life by tweeting interesting things. That’s it.

I am by no means a Twitter celeb, and neither is that my aspiration. But I guess some people who read this might get irritated by the grump I’ve got on. Maybe they will even unfollow me. That’s too bad. But if you’re following me for any reason other than the fact that you enjoy what I bring to the table, then you’re following me for the wrong reasons. Sorry, that’s it.

All I hope for is that Twitter doesn’t turn into Twitbook. So #TGINLFF. (And don’t get me started on #woofwednesday.)