Monday, November 15, 2010

Is Less More?

Post by Jenny

Full disclosure moment: I admit that I have indeed been called Amish and a Luddite, but I have nothing against social media. Honest. It just doesn’t thrill me in any meaningful way. But I did finally relent and join the twitter flock.

My first impressions of twitter were that it was like:
--reading a newspaper comprised entirely of fortune cookie fortunes;
--those cash booths where money flies around wildly while a poor schmuck tries desperately to grab something of value;
--the popular girl in high school everyone wanted to befriend, even though 95% of what came out of her mouth was ridiculous;
--ADHD speed-dating.

I was simultaneously over- and under-whelmed.

One morning when I logged on and realized that the tweets keep coming 24/7, it hit me: twitter is a river. It is a massive river of information fed by millions of tributary tweet streams, some mighty (The White House), some insignificant (me). And like a river, it carries anything, from the most helpful to the trashiest, without discrimination.

This river analogy caused me some panic…how in the world can anyone keep up with that much information? I joined twitter partly to follow writing-related industry news, but, my gosh, there’s so much of it. When I’m away from twitter for a few hours, I worry about how far upstream I will have to swim in order to pick up where I left off. Frankly, I miss my blissful days of tw-ignorance, when I neither knew nor cared what I was missing.

I’m slowly making my peace with it, though. After all, twitter has hit 90 million tweets per day. No one person can (or would want to) assimilate all that information, just as no one person can (or would want to) drink the Mississippi River. (The average flow of The Big Muddy at New Orleans is 44,883,116 gallons per second. The twitter river still has a way to go to match that.)

A good thing about this vast volume of communication is that it requires us to be brief. This succinctness has carried over into creative writing, as featured in a recent NPR report about Robert Smartwood’s anthology of Hint Fiction. So, what do you think: does telling a story in twenty-five words help us become thoughtful, efficient writers or contribute to the ever-shortening cultural attention span? Is less really more these days? Or is there just more of it?

(Cartoon courtesy of American Hell.)


Cricket McRae said...

Love the term Tw-ignorance! And your descriptions of the stream of data are spot on. I'm afraid I pay little attention to my Twitter account. Recently I found myself composing a Facebook update while raking leaves and realized my brain had been hijacked by largely meaningless snippets of information. I should have been thinking about a bit of troublesome dialog in my WIP. That's when I began slowly backing away from social media and turning more attention back to my "real" writing.

Hearth Cricket

Patricia Stoltey said...

I manage Twitter in three ways. One -- I use a list to create a small stream of tweets from people I really care about. Two -- I only glance at the main river briefly from time to time for fun. Three -- I use hashtags for NOCO and FortCollins and check those groups for local news. That has cut my Twitter time way down.

bfav said...

Definitely "more of it." Twitter is a barf of words but it has its usefulness. I've found many useful links from industry tweets. It is a time sucker just to sift through it. Great tips Patricia.

Jenny said...

My brain gets hijacked, too, Cricket. It's kind of like mental potato chips.

Good tips as always, Pat.

Brooke, you're so good at finding useful information and passing it on to the rest of us!

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