27 April 2012

The death of conversation?

In the last four days I've spent quite a lot of time writing a couple of blog posts on topics that I thought were important, here and here.

As I usually do, I announced them on Twitter and Facebook.

Nobody bothered to retweet them, nobody on Facebook bothered to even "like" them, much less click on the link and read them.In fact I doubt if Facebook even bothered to show them to my friends. Facebook, after all, is concerned to show us only the really important stuff, like "X sent you are request in Hidden Chronicles" and "Y sent you a request in Slotomania".

Paper.li, which collects and organises Twitter tweets with links and shows them in a readable form, didn't show the first one of them either (I'm going to retweet it every day until it does).

So when I saw this link, shown in Paper.li and Twitter, I retweeted it. Now everyone is connected, is this the death of conversation? | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian:
As our meeting places fall silent, save for tapping on screens, it seems we have mistaken ubiquitous connection for the real thing.
And I think it's worse than that. Simon Jenkins is talking about viva voce conversations, actual face-to-face, voice to ear ones.But it's reached the online conversations as well.

Twenty years ago we used BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems). They used amateur networks run by volunteers, computers with monochrome screens and no graphics, dial-up lines where 1200 bits per second was considered normal, 2400 fast, 9600 leading edge and 14400 out of this world. But we had real conversations, and talked about real things. And we managed to talk to people on the other side of the world, whom we could never hope to meet face-to-face, (though we did sometimes contrive to meet some of them -- I had lunch with three online friends in a Chinese restaurant somewhere in New Jersey in 1995, and met a couple of others in Moscow a week earlier. I still see them on Facebook, but we have much less to say for each other, because Facebook doesn't encourage real conversations like the BBS networks used to.

The BBS software, again, mostly written by amateurs, got the transmission of real conversations down to a fine art, and was way better for the purpose than anything you see on the Internet. It was "obsoleted" by Windows 95, which made it more difficult to connect to a modem by hiding its communication program several layers deep, and not installing it as a default. But it was not really obsolete, it was just far in advance of anything you see today, and sidelined because it was run for pleasure and not for profit.

And the point of this rant is, that as someone once said, we live in a world of communication without community. Well, he said it about 20 years ago, and now it is worse, because we live in a world of connectivity without communication. We have all these marvellous tools for communication, and we no longer have anything to say to each other.

I sometimes look at my blog stats to see what brings people to look at my blogs, and there is a clear pattern, trivial nonsense is much more attractive and popular than anything that tries to say anything. I once had a firewall called ZoneAlarm, and it kept telling me that "Google Installer is trying to access the Internet" I had no idea what Google installer was, or why it was trying to access the Internet, but I felt that if it was trying to access the Internet from my computer it should at least have the courtesy to tell me that it was doing so, and tell me why. So I wrote a blog post about this, asking if anyone knew (nobody did). Now everyone wants to read that post, which I wrote in a couple of minutes, but nobody wants to read anything I took real trouble over. .

I read a Tweet from a friend that says, "

Loading Tweets seems to be taking a while.

Twitter may be over capacity or experiencing a momentary hiccup."

Oh well, if Twitter gets over its hiccups before I finish writing this post, then I'll tell you what he said. But my reply was 'What the heck are "community stations" and "independent ports"? Is MetroRail going at last?'

His Tweet mentioned "community stations" and "independent ports" but I didn't have a clue what they were. We used to have the SAR&H (South African Railways and Harbours) about 25 years ago, but it was privatised, and  split up into Transnet, with subsidiaries Spoornet and MetroRail and PortNet and a few others..

MetroRail was the suburban train services, so "community stations" sounded as though they were turning all the stations into independent stations run by the local community -- a nice socialist idea. And "independent ports" sounded like they were dropping the "net" from PortNet, and making each port independent. But in a tweet without a link, it really isn't possible to tell. (In joke: at about the time this privatisation was happening someone suggested that they were going to privatise the Dutch Reformed Church and call it GloNet -- which is Afrikaans for "only believe").

So tweet something trivial, and everyone will retweet it. Post a link to something important, and no one will. Post a platitude on Facebook and everyone will "like" and "share" it. Post something that is important to you, and no one will, because Facebook won't even show it to them.

And no, my only request in Slotmania and Hidden Chronicles as that people please stop sending me requests. 

1 comment:

James Higham said...

Maybe the death of letterwriting too, Steve.


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