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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jeff is pulling the plug on the status update

As my Facebook status announces, I will no longer be updating my status. When I opened my Facebook account in 2005, it was a more modest alternative to networking sites like MySpace and Friendster. Early Facebook was more ruled: it lacked the visual clutter of the many cacophonously customized pages at MySpace. And since it was limited to people with .edu e-mail addresses, there was much less chance that people I forgot about twenty years ago would try to be my 'friend' again.

The best feature of Facebook, the status update, was such a success that it has spun off its own industry. I welcomed this innovation as an opportunity to revive a forgotten genre of writing: the epigram. Here was the chance for millions of people to release their inner Oscar Wildes on an unsuspecting world. Many of my status updates were generated by the rule of using whatever song lyric struck me that day. For people who followed my status, it became a game of Name That Tune. 'Jeff is a stonewashed damsel on a junk food run.' 'Jeff says, we're the heirs to the glimmering world.' Or my favourite, 'Jeff has been breaking glass in your room again.' Props to anyone who gets all three songs without using Google.

Twitter is like Facebook without the Face; it's just the status update. The problem? As reported everywhere lately, the Republican Party has signed on to Twitter. A New York Times blog for February 20, 2009 puts it most distressingly: 'Republican lawmakers in Washington have been embracing Twitter with particular zest.' I don't know about you, but I have had enough particular Republican zest for one lifetime. The status update has instantly become uncool.

What's next then? May I suggest that the next cool thing be online modesty accompanied by in-person intimacy? In other words, out with Facebook, in with facetime. Along similar lines, the Times's Dining section for February 25 reported on 'Brooklyn's New Culinary Movement': handmade food. The foodoisie in Brooklyn are making, selling, and bartering their own handmade chocolates, handmade pickles, and so on.

What if we did the same thing with our personal news? One way might be to create social micro-networks where personal information flowed in a narrower circle. We could use only non-internet means of transmitting our epigrammatic status updates to single individuals. One day you might get a text message from me that says 'Jeff is His Imperial Self.' Cooler still would be if we slowed down the delivery of such information by only using postal mail. One day you might get friends' status updates by handwritten postcard with original art. Extremists will insist on only hand-delivering the postcards. That would be very cool. What's my status today? Check your mail later this week.

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Anonymous Yoi said...

I totally agree with you on all points here, except I'm not sure how much text messaging is an improvement over twitter or the status update. True, an individual text is better than a mass mail (a la twitter), however, isn't it still just an email? That still seems a far cry from real face to face interaction or even a phone call, or skype -- a strangely intimate connection. Anyway we are now awash in so-called "personal" communication methods which are mostly impersonal. I don't have a facebook account and was recently considering it, due to peer pressure, but your message has convinced me to continue resisting.

2:57 PM, March 23, 2009

Blogger Jeff Strabone said...

Resist! It's important to have things to fight against, even if they're only silly internet diversions.

After posting that blog item, I wrote a number of status-update postcards. Then I discovered that the U.S. Post Office charges ninety-four cents to mail a postcard to Europe and my enthusiasm waned a bit.

2:22 AM, March 24, 2009

Blogger Turned Corner said...

I find Skype, and all video-based chat, unnerving. The physical set-up makes it impossible to make eye contact with someone while also looking at their face. On one level, it's interesting that technology makes that problem even possible, but I find it disruptive to normal conversation.

9:37 AM, March 24, 2009

Blogger Jeff Strabone said...

Skype should form a consortium with computer developers to make monitors that incorporate Errol Morris's Interrotron.

10:06 AM, March 24, 2009


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