Saturday, 23 January 2010

statustically speaking..

This was prompted by a post by mandakini. It kinda got me thinking about facebook, twitter and the like. For a long time, i wasn't into social networking. the only place on the net for me was StumbleUpon. There was a certain smug satisfaction in being part of stumble, which back then was much smaller. I could tell myself that i wasn't wasting my time on the net, instead i was learning new things every day. or night rather, since there was a phase when entire nights would be spent stumbling, and i would realize the time only when the sun creeped into my hostel lair via the gaps in my window.

But soon, SU turned into a social network on its own, and an addictive one at that. The only difference was that i was networking with random people around the world. So i guess i justified signing up for orkut by telling myself that if i could waste time networking with some random person across the world who happened to be into the same stuff as i am, i could network with people i know too. And orkut had its uses too, it was the ideal tool to connect with that large number of people that fell in the grey area between acquaintances and friends. these were people whom i was likely to fall out of touch with once either of us left the same general geographical location, since keeping in touch for the most part meant the usual hi-hello when we ran into each other occasionally.

Eventually i got out of college (with some difficulty, i might add), and life outside was a different scene altogether. Social networks became a way to kill those spare hours that seemed to hit me between getting off work and going to sleep. In that sense, facebook proved even better, with all the timewasters on it in the form of applications, quizzes and such. I wont describe my position as one against social networking. It has its benefits and detriments, but then what hasn't? Its just that mandu's post got me thinking about some stuff. status messages, to be specific.

I had an interesting discussion regarding this with my housemate nikhil, who is a prolific writer and poster of status messages on facebook. he said, quite frankly, that at one level status messages are about social acceptance. its a sort of reinforcement when people come and 'like' or comment on the message. on facebook, its almost an art, this reinforcement. it makes you feel good at a certain level. i respect his acceptance of that fact, and admit it's pretty much the same for me. different people hunt out this acceptance in different ways, for a lot of them it's sharing with the (online) world the seemingly cool stuff they're doing in life. for me, it's (hopefully) making people smile by posting a line of wit, either mine or by someone wittier than me.

which finally brings me to what i was worrying about. whenever i write, i try and make it funny. often its effortless, but often enough i have to try and make it funny. and recently, i was told that my blog posts were losing out a bit on the funny. i attributed it to my finally growing up, but then later realized that the funny hasn't quite disappeared from other zones in my life. i mean, i still crack the worst jokes possible. after further investigation, i placed the blame on status messages. i guess im happy enough getting a few laughs by writing one line than an entire post. so my question is, am i alone? is there a statistically significant number of aspiring writers out there who are finding satisfaction in the 140 characters of a tweet, or an SMS, or a slightly longer status message? in the years to come, will literature shrink to fit this line-size of instant gratification, and the attention span that goes with it?

purely rhetorical, you may stuff your opinions..


Mandakini said...

just read this....and very astute observation/musing/rhetorical question there at the end. i think our whole generation is somewhat doomed to have a ridiculously short (and shortening as-i-type) attention span. "quick! explain the israel-palestine conflict in 140 characters!" while there is something to be said about the economy of expression of twitter (just read something this morning - a Conan O'Brien interview - and he said that twitter was actually helping him hone his 'funny' skills) i have a sneaking suspicion that facebook is dangerous on a whole other level. my worry is that people (and i dont exclude myself when i say this) will be living their lives so that they can update their facebook profiles. its as if my life needs to be 'liked' and 'commented' on a bazillion times to feel real. WTF. thats twisted stuff.

on another note - good to know my blog-posts result in cerebral activity elsewhere. :)

fulcrum said...

what really gets my goat is facebook on phones. now people can *literally* let the world know when they are taking a crap, and people i know are coming annoyingly close to crossing that line, that holy grail of online piss-offery. and then there are those who post seven status during their office commute or a powecut or whatever.. those kinda people i sometimes forgive, since i sense a certain loneliness in them. only once a while, though.
as for the attention span, i have a half-written post about memories, but my attention span (and work, actually) isnt letting me finish it.. :)

and yeah, its precisely because your posts trigger cerebral activity that i keep checking back there for more.. :)

Mandakini said...

Well If someone updates their status a million times a day, chances are you will get to hear about their bowel movements and chances are there will be more than one doofus out there without an in-built filtering system that edits out meaningless (bad pun and totally intended) crap. My father was conned into joining facebook and after only a day of being a facebooker he confronted me saying "why is MY facebook page full of other people's nonsense"

Dad -1 Facebook -0


p.s. -too much pressure to churn out intelligent, thought-provoking posts has caused blogging slump

fulcrum said...

haha yeah that's a pretty good observation by your dad.. on the other hand my mom, cousins and boss have joined facebook and i'm trying to think up ways of avoiding them without getting into trouble for it..
as for the blog, i have my extended periods of inactivity too, so take yer time.. you have my persmission :P