The Tech Divide

Posted: June 10, 2010 in social media, tribes, Twitter
Tags: , ,

Translation: "I have interests?"

When I was in my early 20’s, I wrote a Sci Fi novel (never published, of course!) about a post-apocalyptic Earth where those who had sided blindly with what I thought of as the dark side. Technology (the “technocrats”) had parted ways with a more Earth-loving and spiritual “green” caste of society, led idealistically enough by native American tribes (who else?!) who teach moderns to live off the grid and store food, and who had presumably kept themselves “pure” from a world that only cares about convenience at any cost. The Nazis (you didn’t think they were far behind did you?) had secretly taken over the galaxy after losing interest in WWII, and now they were back in enormous black metal motherships with tilted swastikas and those stylish fascist brown and black uniforms, complete with those shiny snappy heel-clicking patent leather boots. As I write this today, I wonder how off I really was–about the technology divide, I mean. The Nazis in motherships? Okay that bit was probably a little off for sure.

Today we can all see people in one form of media (TV, even radio) dissing another form (social media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) without any insight whatever into the actual socially bonding uses of social media. These people actually think, because they only see the clips of the bizarre stuff making the rounds in viral videos and the like, that this is all we silly people are doing on the intertubes. People actually come on young shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and tell him he shouldn’t waste time on Twitter. Poor Jimmy is always in the defensive position, when in reality he is probably more talented than most of his guests (the guy not only does amazing impressions and has a near genius comedic insight with some of the best written sketches in the 21st or the 20th century, but actually sings quite well, to boot).

While I don’t think it’s a necessity for everybody to be on Twitter (ranchers, hermits, fulltime moms, Presidents and surfboard sages, I salute you), and while many of us are constantly threatening to leave Facebook like it were a promiscuous spouse, we’re ultimately all here to connect with others. You know, other people like ourselves, people who care about whatever we care about. Let’s face it, even if your thing is making money and dying young partying, you have others to talk to about it, and that gives your life a semblance of meaning, at least in terms of social relations. If you’re a decent comedian or musician, you have lots of research to do on YouTube. When the designated generational “fogey” like Lewis Black says “I don’t care if you bought a new pair of shoes” most Twitter-users immediately get what Lewis Black simply doesn’t: not everyone on Twitter is a 14-yr-old girl with a mouth full of bubblegum. Most of the users I personally see and talk to tend to be male (not crucially important, but telling in terms of male/female ratios), and networking for mostly business purposes. The majority of adults are, and I can state this with some boldness, in fact, either on Twitter for business or for causes that affect people on a massive scale. And in all cases, they’re here to find people who share the interests that their own families and high-school or college friends just simply don’t. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our spouses, our families, our long time friends, but our Twitter posse…the people who know what we’re talking about, they’re out there, ya know?

Truth is, there are lots of aging seniors with stories of fascinating lives to be found hanging out in the spare moments on Twitter. Tree-hugging green people (I’m kind of one of them to a limited extent), conservative Tea Party revolutionaries (okay, I’m definitely not one, at least not yet)–whatever you tweet about and network for, it’s meaningful to you or you wouldn’t be doing it. Studies (I’ll post what I find below) have begun to show that people stop if they find they’re not doing what they love, they just stop, eventually, and start over. So Lewis Black, not only have I never found you funny (sorry, but is caffeine and nicotine withdrawal ever really funny?), but you and Adam Sandler (another pointlessly unfunny “comic”–see his cinematic “twatter” reference) both don’t get what about half of the world already does. Namely that:

A) there are lots of individual non-famous people funnier than the both of you put together–on YouTube…seriously, and

B) social media isn’t about fitting into a preconceived mold like you claim not to be doing, it’s about being ourselves, our full selves, the selves we don’t find opportunity to be with those that fate has thrown us together with in many, if not most cases (at least until we marry and create/train/assemble children into people we think we appreciate and “get” us).

Sure there are limits to the defining of your network, even online. If you want to show another, less mainstream side of yourself to your posse, you might even have to change to another profile. When you go to the bar or to church, how much of that self can you be then? There are more strict limits in geographically limited situtations. This is why meetups (SXSW, the Japanese language group, the myriad of multiplying cultural cons) have become a thing. People want to actually meet and hang out with these people they share so much interest with. Nowadays, I think technology is about one of the few things that enables people who care about the arts, a decent intellectual discussion, socially engaged causes–or speed-crochet for that matter–to actually take action towards fulfilling our full potentials and create meaning in ways that our immediate social geography may just not provide on such a wide open scale.

So, please understand if we don’t listen to you too closely, oh purveyors of social media ridicule with mics and cameras on, but it’s just that we know that you don’t know quite yet what you’re even talking about. And besides, we’re often too busy concocting factually relevant critiques of social media, and not because it annoys us what other people do with their time, but a lot of us seem to care about whatever we’re into. Maybe we’re just funny like that?

This concludes my grumpy midlife crisis moment…for now. You know yours is coming soon, so please don’t front. I’d like my pillow and remote now. I’m old.

Not.

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Comments
  1. Jeanine says:

    Nazis in motherships! Wow!

    I feel I’m sometimes part of a tech divide, as well. My family doesn’t get online for anything. I am the lone Tweeter in the bunch. Good post! Very true words here!

  2. Walter Powell says:

    It’s all true! 🙂 I’m 84 and I just accelerated when the internet came out and today I do meetups once a week locally. Some of my older friends think I truly am from another planet.

    Great to see you covering this.

  3. Kafka in jeans says:

    Nazis in motherships rock! Compelling read!

  4. Jessi Trumbold says:

    Thanks for this. Very entertaining romping view of how we see each other across the tech divide.

  5. Diana Driscoll says:

    Mark, you are right on, as usual (except for the fact that you never published your book! You should rethink that, maybe with a few, umm, small revisions?).

    I heard the funniest statement from someone who (obviously) was not one of “us” (is that being too presumptuous, Mark?): “I don’t believe in Twitter.” It was as if Twitter were a religion – but frankly, you can see the ‘nonbelievers/nonusers’ a mile away now. They address the ‘teen-ager/lipstick’ argument with vehemence, and just as we are all tolerant of others’ religions, we sometimes just have to let it go.

    I. like so many, also enjoy the intellectual discussions, the gut-splitting jokes and the true friendships that SM has brought to me. And, Walter, when I am 84 (should I be so lucky), I hope to be half as in touch as you!

    Thanks, Mark, for putting in eloquent words what many of us have been thinking. Now, see what you can do with that old manuscript, OK?

    Fondly, from a ‘female technocrat’,
    Diana

    • Mark Brimm says:

      Thanks Diana,

      People dissing Twitter remind me of how people initially dissed cell phones. At first lots of people found them annoying, and now nobody is without one.

      I think I tossed that manuscript into a trash bin along with a lot of other stuff just to be free of it. 😛 I suppose I could day something trite like I gave up fiction to concentrate on my life. 😛

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