Sunday, July 05, 2009

Social networking ate my brain

First Twitter, now Facebook. Somebody stop me!

I'm giving up Twitter, at least for personal updates. It's been fun, but in all honesty I'm too chatty to shave most of my comments down to a pithy 140 characters. Besides, I can't delude myself into the belief that complete strangers or even close friends are hanging on my every Tweet. (Actually, I hope they're not. That would be unspeakably pathetic.) Then, too, I've already realized (and observed here) that when I'm busy tweaking Twitter, it saps mental energy I could be expending more productively elsewhere. I guess some social networking software is like wine -- some people can have one glass and stop, and others have to finish the bottle. I'm a bottle-finisher, apparently.

It occurred to me today, while I was merrily messing around with Facebook, that there are so many people out there seeking fame or at least personal validation through social networking sites. (No, I don't have anyone specific in mind, so stop being paranoid, people!) They post even the most intimate details of their lives online, believing that by doing so they too have a chance at gathering masses of adoring fans (hint: even if you're Denzel Washington, nobody wants to know if you're in the toilet right now).

Then I began to consider the truly great writers, actors and entertainers of centuries past and present, and in so many cases how little we know about their personal lives and inner thoughts. The scanty facts we know about William Shakespeare's life can fit on a single page. But the quantity of verifiable biographical details largely misses the point. Shakespeare is beloved because of what he wrote, not about himself, but about human nature -- not about personal details, but about universal stories. People want to know more about him because of the demonstrated brilliance of his prose and poetry, the quality of his storytelling. Would he have produced anywhere near as many plays and sonnets if his time had been consumed with recording trivial details? I think not.

Still thinking about this, but it seems to me that social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are potentially dangerous creativity suckers. I can only speak for myself, but if I expend the lion's share of my creative energy on sites such as Facebook, at the end of the day I feel as though I've accomplished something, but other than keeping up with friends (which I consider to be time well spent), I have done very little by way of actual writing. How is that a good thing?


MarieC said...

Your points are very valid, as ever! Social networking is indeed a curious animal. I must admit I am not twitterpated with Twitter. I don't get it! I have an account, but do very little with it, aside from blocking odd strangers who insist on following me.

Facebook can be a huge time suck, but it has been so valuable to me to keep up and reconnect with such a variety of people from all aspects of my life. But I have to be very careful with how much time I spend on it. Ugh.

tlc illustration said...

You are right about having to be careful about getting sucked into shiny shiny pursuits that take up the same creative space that actual creation does. I have finally kind of worked out a balance that does not seem to distracting, but still allows for an amount of connection that I enjoy.

(my blogging following has taken a hit in the process though... Something apparently has to give somewhere...)