Sunday, June 12, 2011

Facebook. Twitter. Thumbs Up or Down?

Last month, Bill Keller, executive editor of the NY TIMES, published an opinion piece about social media. His article, "The Twitter Trap," taking the long view, also traced some steps in the history of communication.

"Until the 15th century, people were taught to remember vast quantities of information." Some even memorized whole books. Then with the invention of the printing press, Gutenberg changed the world. People no longer had to memorize, they could depend on reading the printed page and refreshing their memory by rereading. Did books create a decline in studious memorization?

Fast forward to . . .

Facebook and Twitter. Keller argues they do have promotional uses, but they are also "displacing real rapport and real conversation, just as Gutenberg's device displaced remembering." Do you agree?

I've often wondered if Facebook promotes quantity friendship, rather than quality friendship. If so, what effect does this have on the millions of users?

Keller writes that Twitter conversation is "more often than not, reductive and redundant." True? Does it contribute to a decline in complex, thoughtful conversation?

Some consider both Facebook and Twitter essential to a writer's career.

Do you use either one? If so, is it a thumbs up experience? Do you agree with any of the thumbs down thoughts?


  1. I use both Facebook and Twitter. I use Facebook more, because it lets me keep in touch with distant friends and relatives in an easy way. (Especially with photos. Why send 100 Christmas cards once a year when you can share your family experiences with 250 people every week on Facebook?)

    I think there's some validity to the statement about people relying too much on false relationships online, and not developing real relationships in person. But I don't think we'll ever devolve to the point where people ONLY rely on social media for their relationships. As long as children still need to go to school and adults need to go to work (or to the store, or out into society in general), people will maintain the necessary skills to continue to interact with more depth.

    Even with my online writing buddies, we get a lot more out of lengthy emails than we do out of our brief twitter conversations.

    This is a great post. I can't wait to read some of the other comments

  2. I definitely see the value in both - especially if you have something to promote. I have friends who've won agent critiques on Twitter and one who even saw that her (now) agent was open to accepting picture book manuscripts. Both can be a wealth of information as well.

    That said...

    They can also be a time suck. And building up followers, unless you are an *expert* at something, or a published author (since we're talking about writing here)or celebrity can take a lot of time. Also coming up with quips - while good practice, I suppose - might also seem daunting.

    For instance - I follow Neil Gaiman and once he mentioned going out to his garden to get something for breakfast (I forget the vegetable, but the fact that it was a vegetable was interesting to me...) - him saying that is interesting. If I wrote it? Um, yeah, so what? But if I was a celebrity writing that...yeah, I just shared a glimpse of my life with my adoring public.

    And that said...
    I use both, probably not to the capacity I could be using them, but I do promote the blog and I do keep in touch with friends. And hopefully one day I'll be promoting my books. As I said, I see the value, but I'm not sure it's a necessity.

  3. "But my inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity."

    I think he's absolutely right. There's a good Guardian article from a couple of years back that shows networking sites are changing kids brains for the worse:

  4. I'm a newbie on Twitter. I'm not on Facebook. I see FB as nice for keeping up with people you'd otherwise lose touch with, but I also hear people with genuine in-person relationships say, "I'll just Facebook you." So real-time talk can easily be cast aside for Facebooking. If I were going on FB for pro reasons, I'd create a fan page. I don't need a personal page for that, and don't like the idea of mixing the two.

    I chose Twitter because I thought the time-suck aspects would be easier to manage. Get in and get out. I've gotten links to neat stuff, but I agree that an awful lot of writers tweet about the mundane, and a lot of tweets I can't even decipher. But I've got stuff to learn yet.

    Changing our brains? Yep. What and how we do, practice, and think is what we become.

  5. Brigid,
    You make a good point about people still having to interact with the world.

    Yes, coming up with stellar tweets must be a time consuming job! Better to spend it on real writing?

    Every innovation seems to have a downside - Keller also points out that GPS certainly can contribute to withering map reading skills.

    I agree about the distinction between the personal and fan pages on Facebook - one more important than the other for a writer?

  6. I have to work hard to tune out the chatter in my brain, and Facebook and Twitter don't help at that end. I'm sure I'm missing out on some valuable tidbits by avoiding the social networking sites, but it takes me too much time to sift through all the dross to get to the gold. I don't have enough time to write as it is.

  7. At One-on-One last year, the panel discussion was on social media and twitter was by far and away the clear winner.

    I rarely go on Twitter, but do intend to beef up my online presence when I've finished my WIP.

  8. J.L. & J.A.

    I agree about the amount of time you can spend online instead of writing. Lately, I've spent way too much time reading blogs - all the controversy about that Wall St. Journal article on dark YA, for example.

    I can see how Twitter could become one more thing to check a couple of times a day . . . another half hour gone. Though if I had a book to promote, I guess I wouldn't begrudge the time.