I had an engaging conversation today about the rapid adoption of social media phenoms: Facebook and Twitter. This was more than just a discussion of the fantastic rates of adoption these two sites have enjoyed. We talked at length about their ubiquity and utility. As more and more people I know have begun using these services, I have come under increasing pressure to join them. I haven’t. That may sound egotistical or misanthropic — a tried and true (and tired) way to reassert my “dark and mysterious” demeanor in an increasingly over-exposed world.
I don’t mean it that way.
I have a long history of adopting technology ahead of the curve. And again this may sound like bragging or elitism. My way of saying that I was country before country was cool. Fine. What I’m trying to explain is my methodology for adoption of new technology. I’m not a technological explorer — tinkering with new technologies just for the sake of discovery. I want to have a purpose in mind. I separate art from craft, poiesis from techne. My primary criteria for this separation is utility. Technology serves a purpose. It has a function. It does something. When a given technology proves that its utility exceeds its cost, I adopt it.
I see Twitter as another communication model, the latest of many that have followed since the model for a computer has shifted from a computing device to a communication device. Mobile computing has accelerated this transition dramatically. But absent a compelling reason to use this tool to communicate over any of the other well-established ones I already enjoy, Twitter is an empty vessel, lacking real utilitarian value.
I find Facebook an empty activity in its own right — sociological navel-gazing at best. A pass-time on par with a Saturday afternoon filled with John Woo movies or an MTV marathon of “The Real World.” At worst it is an unfortunate reconnection with a past that by all rights I buried in the past.
Facebook is the Sims but with real people.
So far I have not seen the compelling use-case argument for either of these media. Spreadsheets, email, wikis, digital photography: these passed my arbitrary utility test with ease. Blogs, instant messaging, and cellular phones had a more arduous time of convincing me. MySpace, Facebook and Twitter remind me that I am rapidly becoming a middle-aged member of Generation X. I was born into the Space Age, not the Internet Age. In terms of the Internet culture, I am Issei, rather than Nisei.
And I am in awe at how radically the society changes with such generational influence.