Twitter elicits a more poisonous information anxiety. It moves so fast that if I’m not continuously checking in, I completely lose track of the conversation — and it’s almost impossible to figure out what happened three hours ago, much less two days ago. I can’t save Twitter for later, and thus there’s always a pressure to check Twitter now. Twitter ends up taking more of my time than I’d like it to, as there’s a constant reason to check it rather than, say, reading a magazine article.
Ezra Klein, The Washington Post. The Problem with Twitter.
Klein is reacting to Nick Beaudrot’s piece about Twitter, which is an account of why he’s not returning to Twitter after giving it up for Lent until he can figure a way to sort the useless from the useful. Beaudrot graphs Twitter content as 10% links to interesting things and 90% faff, snark and debates better suited to blogging.
FJP: Obviously Twitter has its unbeatable pros as well, and Klein does appreciate them. See reader comments on the piece for some organization solutions to his laments, one of which is to build lists. For tips on how to built newsy twitter lists, see our post here.
Rumor has it that online presence is everything. The image of who you are on the Internet is who people assume you are in real life, and you get to own and craft that image yourself. But, what happens if you surrender that image to someone (or something) else, and how you’re represented is at the mercy of the executor?
DeadSocial, _LivesOn, and IfIDie are services that post social media messages on your behalf after you croak — with post-options ranging from personally written notes to messages generated by algorithms based on your social media habits. You can even select a trusted executor, like a member of your family or a close friend, to monitor the posts.
But what happens if that executor is in fact a family member, and he or she dies? Does the permission to control your online personality go to some dude hunched over a computer in a cubicle at _LivesOn? And by the time that happens, will it be a hundred years in the future, after everyone you knew personally is dead, and there’s no chance of the person or algorithm responsible for your posthumous personality to accurately represent you? Will the online-you eventually just become this character that’s been invented by Joe Shmoe?
If you’re sitting there thinking, “No corporation will be allowed to use me like that. Cyber-me or real-me, I’m still a person, not property,” then consider the current Myriad Genetics case — where the Supreme Court is contemplating whether or not it will be okay to patent human genes.
Can genes be patented? This spring, the Supreme Court will hear a case that may well decide the question, and the consequences for American biomedicine could be huge. Over three years ago, in May 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Public Patent Foundation (PPF) filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York seeking to overturn the patents on DNA isolated from two human genes. Called BRCA1 and BRCA2, the genes significantly increase a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The main defendant was the Myriad Genetics Corporation, a biotechnology firm in Utah that controls the patents—and is legally entitled for the life of the patent (now twenty years) to exclude all others from using these genes in breast cancer research, diagnostics, and treatment. Other defendants were the University of Utah Research Foundation, which had come to own the patents, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), which had granted them.
If courts are actually considering patenting genes, would it be so farfetched to assume that a company would want to patent our online presence if we gave them access to our social media accounts?
And if we did grant them this access, should we consider the option to patent our online brands so corporations can’t do whatever they want with those brands after we die? How long will these patents last? Is it inevitable that our social media selves will have no choice but to be cyber-enslaved?
Part of the reason why many people (particularly geeks) dislike talking on the phone is that it forces both sides to be present at the same time, instead of allowing a user to consume or respond to the information at their own pace — or multi-task while they are doing so.
Ingram is talking about synchronous vs. asynchronous communication (ie: phone vs. e-mail or text) and how the proliferation of different kinds of communication technology has allowed people to develop different affinities for communication etiquette (depending on age/industry/how connected you are).
Both are interesting reads. The bottom line is that people have different preferences and we need to keep that in mind when we communicate with each other. Bilton, for example, writes of his distaste for communication that wastes your time (ie: leaving a voicemail when you can just send a text). Ingram, in a similar-but-different example, writes of the patience we need to develop for those who might not be at the same technological level we are (ie: don’t expect your parents to text you if they are just getting used to e-mail).
Sort of Related: Our recent post on How to Tweet Like a Buddha. It’s essentially a list of tips on how to be mindful on Twitter. How to remember that behind the screen is human being with a particular set of values, habits, preferences, and a particular level of knowledge, tech literacy and access to communication. So, in the same way we are mindful of how the person in front of us is receiving the information we convey, it’s worth being mindful of the person behind the screen. It’s an important mindfulness, I believe, that is sorely lacking in our attempts to navigate the technological literacy divides of our time.—Jihii