Chaff Production at All-Time High.



Paul Carr of Techcrunch makes a bold move (particularly for someone who writes for a tech blog) and shuts down all of his social media accounts except for Twitter. And yeah, that kind of defeats the purpose, but the reason for doing this is that he feels that he's been losing his posterity: social media, particularly Twitter, has made his public thoughtstream an endless river of decontextualized, purposeless trivia:

"I am learning a lot about pens." reads one update from last year. What does that even mean? "Ok, that's quite enough of all this. I'm going out", reads another. Enough of all what? And where was I going? Of course, the fact that I'm a particularly boring tweeter doesn't help, but look at anyone's Twitter account and it's the same story – 140 characters simply doesn't give enough depth or breadth to commit events, memories or feelings to the permanent record.

I'd argue that the problem isn't that we don't know what he had had enough of on that day, or where he went when he went out. It's that even if we knew, we wouldn't care. Perhaps he would care, but that's because he's the one it's about. But if it had really been an important event -- say, when he went out he ended up running into a burning building and saving a baby, winning the affection of the baby's mother, who ended up becoming his wife -- he wouldn't have forgotten about it.

Problem is, our lives are pretty mundane most of the time. Imagine if we all went through life describing with our mouths the activities in which we were engaged. Picture walking down the street, while everyone you pass looks at you and says, "I'm walking down the street." "I'm walking down the street." "I'm thinking about my dog as I walk down the street." "I'm walking down the street." Pretty soon you'd be screaming for them all to shut the hell up.

Fortunately, you're not required to follow anyone on Twitter if you don't want to -- anyone in particular, or anyone at all. And I suppose that if we had access to thousands of tweets from, say, Alexander the Great, it would be pretty interesting to historians. But most of us aren't conquering Asia Minor on any particular day, we're just going through our boring old lives. So when future historians try to wade through the Library of Congress' Twitter archive, they're going to have to sort through an awful lot of chaff.

-- Paul Waldman

You may also like