Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Those who don't create, critique those who do

I've committed one of the cardinal sins of blogging: it's been weeks since I've written an entry. This has happened for a number of reasons but primarily due to my addiction to Twitter.

I've found this microblogging format and the people I've been introduced to incredibly compelling. Twitter is everything that academia and a dissertation is not: it is concise instead of wordy, it is flirty instead of measured, it is snarky instead of considered, it is timely instead of enduring, and it is fast instead of labored.

There is in both academia and the Twitter universe a great deal of self-promotion but where Twitter blares out self-referential Tweets in stark, bright colors, scholars indirectly tout themselves in lengthy and subdued footnotes. Twitter is bold, snappy and instantaneous and in academia, even after death, an author's work is ceaselessly critiqued for its worthiness and its potential contribution to the field. Bogged down in yet more dissertation rewrites, I was an easy mark to fall prey to Twitter's seductive urgency, its false sense of intimacy and its immediacy.

But since every quality that are Tweets, or messages, are aspects of writing frowned upon in my discipline, I've been a stranger in a strange land, out of my element. The people I've encountered online have been, by and large, kind and open to me but, to use another cliche, I'm a round peg in a square hole. I don't fit and many of my snarky remarks were observations of the worlds of the participants (primarily technology and marketing) that I found incredibly peculiar. I found and still find it difficult to hold my tongue when people are behaving in what seems to me to be a ludicrous manner. If I was physically present, I would roll my eyes and give a "what is WITH these people" shake of my head but since I was in the world of Twitter, I would fire off a random pet peeve of those I was "following" or remark sarcastically in a way that I thought resembled intelligence.

I was already to write another Tweet about how no one in the outside world really cares about political in-fighting in the world of technology when I got a terrible headache. Eventually, this led me to wonder, was I creating anything of value? Was I contributing to the problem instead of trying to understand the world and myself a little better?

Which, predictably, led me back to my neglected blog. I hope to take the energy I got from writing Tweets and channel it towards the creation of something more lasting and ephemeral than 140 character messages. I'm not aiming for profundity, I'd just like to contribute something relevant to the discussion going on online about how advances in technology and communication are changing the way we understand ourselves and the way we behave.

I know I won't be promoting myself on Twitter, that is a no-no that is just too ingrained in me over years of graduate school programming. But I can say with certainty that I'll probably lapse into talking about myself and my cat! That's a promise.