Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm So 2006 or Blogs are Bad Enough, But Twitter?

Blogs are bad enough, you ask? All right, as a blogger going on three years I'm being a bit facetious. Granted, I was skeptical of blogs at first, largely because so many of them, early on, were being used for immediate, barely processed thoughts and minutia, as if the blogger's every random brain fart should be of interest to someone. But the medium is incredibly malleable, really just an instant publishing tool that allows for a multitude of uses. So, sure we still have self-indulgent wanker blogs up the wazoo, but we also have the equivalent of top-shelf op-ed columns from compelling commentators we follow loyally, we have specialty bootstrap news organizations that bring in a wide variety of voices shunned by the mainstream media, we have literary magazines that have borrowed the blog platform, some of which I've published with, and we have hundreds if not thousands of blogs that are home base for eloquent essayists on a wide variety of topics (I aim for acceptance into this last category). The best bloggers, I think, see the blog post pretty much as no different than a page in a print publication, but with the advantage of hyperlinking, search capability, and quicker exposure. These bloggers actually take care with their writing. They revise, they refine, they hone--they care. They care about reasoned argumentation, they care about voice, they care about readability. They realize that the reader's time is precious, and they aim to be worthy of that time.

Where am I going with this? Where am I coming from?

These thoughts were inspired by the case of Jay Rosen, and his seeming abandonment of blogging for tweeting (what one does on Twitter). Jay is a brilliant media scholar and critic, a member of the NYU journalism faculty. He was also my Ph.D. dissertation advisor. I had been following his blog PressThink for some time, and had been surprised not to see any new posts after September 18. After all, this was the height of the Presidential election season, and surely the press was generating sufficient fodder for Jay's incisive analysis. But there was silence on PressThink. Was Jay away somewhere, perhaps Outer Mongolia, on a grant? Or worse, was he ill and unable to blog?

Yesterday, I was speaking with David Mindich, professor of journalism at St. Michael's College in Vermont, also a former student of Jay's. I mentioned that I was surprised that Jay hadn't blogged in close to two months.

"Do you know why he's not blogging?" David asked.


"He's been on Twitter." David went on to explain that Jay had been prodigiously tweeting these 140-character-maximum messages to a network of similarly press-obsessed tweeters, or twitterers, or whatever one calls them. Jay has over 2,000 followers of his tweets--that's the official term, "followers." The last thing I'd want is "followers." Readers, yes. Anyway, Jay apparently likes the fast pace and immediacy of Twitter, but what he's jettisoned is the essay, where thought is given form.

Call me old-fashioned, but I'll take essays over brain farts any day.

Twitter is, no doubt, a brilliant application, a tool for mass, public instant messaging. But I hope it doesn't seduce too many writers away from, dare I say, writing. While the minimalist in me does see possibilities in the tweet as a new literary form, I'll probably just stick with my usual 200 to 500-word behemoths.


Blogger Richard said...

I agree, but I think it's because we're old.

I made a Twitter account years ago now, it seems, but never issued a single tweet.

Yet every once in a while I get an email saying people I respect (like a person who is my supervisor at work!) has signed up to follow my tweets.

Frankly, it's 7 p.m., I've been on the computer for hours, haven't gotten through my own RSS feed (just hit you on Bloglines) and I am already online too much. I have begun to take internet sabbaths on Sundays just to catch up (I still have some of your links saved and haven't gotten to them).

If I used Twitter, it would take up more time I don't have. I now check Facebook once every two weeks and see I have all these things waiting for me. I am afraid to open my MySpace page to see what's awaiting me after so long.

Anyway, I agree and I am shutting down.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous dyosa said...

You have a good point there. Call me old-fashioned or not, I don't tweet. Maybe I'm just not a twitter.

10:02 AM  

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