Better Than New

Life/Media Balance is Rare, Underdone by morepete
July 17, 2007, 10:30 am
Filed under: New Needs

Bruce Nussbaum, quite astutely, wonders whether new forms of social media are taking too much of our time. Are we communicating too much?

Having made, at one time, a significant portion of my living as a professional blogger — and being engaged to someone who is realizing her entire income in that arena — I still find myself ambivalent toward the notion of the age of conversation. We still haven’t found effective strategies for preventing fraud online between individuals, and the only sites where I ever see people using their real names a majority of the time are those where commenters hope to garner PR for themselves in the process (not that I’m innocent there, of course).

It’s many nights in my household that both residents arrive home from work, eat a brief dinner and begin blogging until we both drop. This lifestyle is a challenge. The Age of Conversation is, perhaps, most effective when its parties are people without a large social network in the real world. Were I living back home in Michigan, I’m sure I would devote much more of my time to forging new connections with strangers online instead of wishing I could kill my WiFi connection for a few hours and just read a book.

Granted, this is a pattern that has repeated itself for decades, at least back to the era when radio was introduced. Every time we create new media, some people become addicted to them. I’m sure we could even find exhortations to stop our addiction to newspapers – “scandal sheets” – if we go back to the right time period.

The question becomes whether our media are becoming things that can only function when the rest of our lives are shaped around them. This, too, has precedence, as we have seen from the way that broadcasting schedules “enslaved” viewers to sacrifice their evenings to catch favored shows. But with social networks, with tools like Twitter, with blogging, I would argue, for many of us, that failure to update is a kind of death.

Staying connected and up-to-date means that I scan 500 article headlines in a day through my RSS reader rather than read the 10 that sound most interesting. If I go without, I fall down a hole of not knowing. If I go more than two days without blogging, I might vanish from the landscape. Is balance possible? Not if we are to take full advantage of the tools before us. Social media are the heartbeats of the current era. If the regular pulse of Twitter updates fades, the networks we create crumble.

I don’t know if we have an answer to this dilemma yet. Maybe it just takes willpower and a recognition that we can’t be all things to all people. But an awful lot of folks I know are putting off the important works of their lives because they have to blog the urgent ones. And that’s not going to help any of us grow, either individually or as a society.

Picture via Edobarn 


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