At Large : It's so much talk
Visit mvtimes.com, and you'll see we've joined Facebook and Twitter. We've got fans and followers, whose numbers grow daily. That seems nice, but I have only a vague understanding of how this helps us do our newspaper job. Folks who know about these things tell me it does. They say that without question these two social networking technologies are increasing the numbers of people globally who have access to our website. That must be good, I guess, though some of them must have problems of their own closer to home that they ought to be paying attention to rather than reading the bird column. Or this column, for that matter. Maybe it's the high school prom photos of each of The Times staff members, that we've posted on our Facebook page, but I think even those revealing pictures won't attract the millions of visitors for whom we yearn.
Every once in a while I get an invitation to join Facebook, but I worry that it's not a real invitation. I suspect it's being sent from those highly sensual Russian women who keep emailing me to remind me that we've met before, and that we ought to reconnect. Or perhaps it's those very generous Ethiopian businessmen and lawyers who are delighted to be able to inform me that there is a sum in excess of two million Euros on deposit in a bank in Addis Ababa, awaiting my orders. I have only to forward my bank account numbers, and they'll transfer the money. It's nice to know that the Ethiopian banking system is functioning so smoothly and that the Ethiopians are not reluctant to export funds, which must be in high demand in their own country. Nevertheless, I am skeptical. It's a habit, I suppose.
I have joined Twitter, and I've tweeted, though I haven't had any tweets in return. Actually, I didn't expect any, because after my debut tweet I ran out of things to say. In fact, search my brain as assiduously as I can, there is not a single thought that, in my opinion, qualifies as worthy of communication, and especially not to unwitting fellow Twits who didn't ask for it. I suspect someone like 'Lil Wayne is tweeting his rapper's soul from prison to his faithful fans who hang on every twit [Defined as a phrase within the larger tweet. Ed.]. I guess that in prison there's a lot to report on - the food, the friends you make so unexpectedly, the post-modern simplicity of the surroundings - but in my life, nothing worth tweeting ever seems to happen.
Feeling powerful, after plunging into Twitter and finding that it didn't take up as much time as people said it would, largely because I got no tweets and sent none, Buzz turned up on my gmail. I like gmail. I like how it lives in the clouds, not on my computer. I like how it keeps track of multiple email addresses and multiple collections of folders (labels), how its search engine is so powerful, how you can create and share word and spreadsheet documents, and calendars, how you can chat with the kids right there on the screen as you work on something else, how it reminds you that you didn't attach the email attachment you thought you attached. It's a good thing. So, when Buzz showed up, I said what the hell and joined. Right off, I Buzzed my daughter in law, and it was fun, although I could have called her. She has a very nice telephone presence.
But, imagine my chagrin the day after I got my initial Buzz on when I learned that Google - all knowing, all powerful Google - had goofed and spilled my private beans all over the Internet, along with the beans of millions of others. I felt violated, or I would have if I actually understood what they'd done that was so invasive and why it was worse than what Facebook, Twitter, email generally, and the Internet altogether do to the quaint notion of privacy day in and day out. I may not understand how all this Internet works, but I long ago concluded - accurately, I think - that the old days of minding one's own business and enjoying the comforting understanding that everyone else was minding his or her business at the same time I was minding mine, were over. I set about trying to make sure there was none of my business that might attract the attention of anyone else who imagined it would be fun to mind.
Given the speed with which Internet businesses flame up and flame out, who'd be surprised if Twitter and Facebook (with 400 million members) followed Friendster and MySpace - remember Friendster? No, well how about MySpace, about which The Times' coverage, warning of its dangers for unsuspecting teens, won journalism awards and bitter criticisms from MySpace posters just a few years ago? It survives, but it struggles to find a new, profitable identity.
None of these enterprises, the departed and the extant, has made a profit, none has a clear picture of what form it will take when it grows up, none is today exactly what it was when it was founded by a bunch of college kids in a garage somewhere. For that matter, remember Flesh of the Stars - big name, great idea, never got off the ground. Flash in the pan.
Oh, well, find us on Twitter, or Facebook, or Buzz us, or check the mailbox.