Virginia Heffernan recently wrote an article for the NY Times titled Let Them Eat Tweets in which she discusses this recent phenomenon of constant connectivity. It seems the masses (myself included) are infatuated with the idea of being constantly connected to people, some of which they don’t even know offline. It’s an interesting topic and one that has led me to do a lot of thinking on why it is I care so much about how many Twitter followers or RSS subscribers I have.
I have only lately begun to wonder whether I’d use Twitter if I were fully at liberty to do what I liked. In other words, I’m not sure I’d use Twitter if I were rich. Swampy, boggy, inescapable connectivity: it seems my middle-class existence has stuck me here.
Do you think this is true? I know that when I first starting using twitter it was an experiment in growing my network so that I could get more freelance work or get the word out on MightyBrand or other ventures. So, if I was rich would I continue to do this? Wouldn’t I have better things to do with my time? Why would I care about how big my audience was if I didn’t need anything from them any more. Sidenote: I mean this on a professional level. I’ve met some really awesome people through these social networks and that has greatly improved my life. But in the same way we don’t spend every hour of every day with our friends offline, we certainly shouldn’t feel the need to spend our days constantly connected with our online friends.
The connections that feel like wealth to many of us — call us the impoverished, we who treasure our smartphones and tally our Facebook friends — are in fact meager, more meager even than inflated dollars. What’s worse, these connections are liabilities that we pretend are assets. We live on the Web in these hideous conditions of overcrowding only because — it suddenly seems so obvious — we can’t afford privacy.
Personally I do find myself believing in the illusion that I’m more important that I am just because of how many Twitter followers, blog subscribers or LinkedIn connections I have. I feel the need to interact with people as if people are going to miss what I have to say if I stop. The other side of that is that I fear missing out on something, I can’t stand to be away from the internet for fear of being left out of some new meme or some new app that will totally change my life.
It seems twitter and other social networks have become a way for me to act busier than I am and thereby feel more important than I am. I don’t get so much email that I can’t stay on top of it, but I do have a lot of twitter followers I feel a need to stay on top of. It’s a sad state of affairs.
I’m in the midst of drafting a new personal online code of conduct for myself to try and climb out of the “bog” and see what lies beyond.