Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Technology and Autonomy

I think I've figured out why Twitter doesn't work for me, and it's the same reason chat/IM/AIM doesn't work for me (except with you, M--don't worry, I'll keep it on).

I am undoubtedly an internet addict. I spend way too much work time, leisure time, and stupid time online. I blog, I Facebook, I read, I watch, I surf, I email incessantly. I text too, a lot. But what characterizes all those activities is that I do them on my own time. I control them (or, at least, I let myself think I do).

An interesting thing about different cybermodalities is that they have different norms, even if they are enacted with the same technology. For instance, now that I have my Blackberry, I am often texting and emailing with the same keyboard, i.e. the same capacity, yet I punctuate and capitalize correctly when I email, and I don't worry about it when I text.

The norm for email is that you reply when you are ready. The norm for chatting is that you reply as soon as you receive.

I hate that. I don't like being interrupted. I don't like feeling guilty if I don't respond immediately. I don't want to have a conversation when I don't want to (this is why I often don't answer the phone).

I used to have little indicators that showed when I had an email or a post on my reader. I turned them off. Even though I check my email and reader frequently. I check when I want to, not when they want me to.

The point of Twitter is to get it all in real time, ideally streaming down the side of your screen. At least I think that's the point, because I don't do it. I don't want other people's thoughts streaming down the side of my screen, when I'm trying to put my own thoughts together. So, although I catch up on the few Twitters I follow every day or so, it's just not my priority.

On the other hand, I am loving my Blackberry, which seems kind of counter-intuitive, given that it forces all my cyberactivity in my face all the time. But here's the thing: with the Blackberry, I know what's there, and I can get it when I want; the counter-intuitive response is that I no longer have this feeling that something may be happening, and I may be missing it, so I need to check, now.

When I was a freshman in college, my best friend and I used to pick up the silent phone to see if anyone was there, we were so desperate for something interesting to happen. It never did, of course. Just like my hours on the internet rarely turn up anything I really want.

Yes, it all comes back to Lacan, as it always does.

Since I got the Blackberry, I have spent much less time online. I don't turn on the computer to check my email, and then surf around, habitually, to see what's there, finding nothing. I just check the necessities on the Blackberry, put it down, and go on with my life.

I like it.

5 comments:

Dawn said...

No, you check in with twitter occasionally when you want a break the way you'd wander to the break room at work just to chat with someone. Then you can wander away the same way. I have my twitter accounts (I have one for work) open all the time in twitter clients but I don't keep constantly checking in. I just go look when I need to stop working for a minute. I check twitter and I check facebook then I go back to work. I only stay as long as I'm interested because no one cares if you're there right then or not.

Libby said...

I'm trying to decide whether to keep using tweetdeck or not--one potential problem w/it is the constant update. I wasn't getting that just using twitter on the web (it doesn't work on my phone anyway). I am too attuned to those email alerts and am getting ready to turn them off, too (oh, but the anxiety about missing something! I relate too much to that phone story...). But in my saner moments I know it can all, every bit of it, wait.

Anonymous said...

Chaka Khan let me rockyou let me rockyou Chaka Khan, let me rock you that's all I wanna do, Chaka Khan let me rockyou let me rockyou Chaka Khan, let me rock you 'cause I FEEL FOR YOU.

No twitter, no texting, none of that immediate, not on my own time crap for me, tra la!

abby said...

I agree with you about IM; I don't like it because it is directly to me, requiring a response from me. That's why I like Twitter, though. The Tweets are not directed at me and they do not require a response unless I feel like giving one. It's way less pressure than tesxting and IM, I promise. ;)

landismom said...

I feel waaaaay more annoyed by interruptions to my work day from g-chat than I do from twitter, personally. Although there is almost nothing better than doing snarky comments on g-chat during a national conference call, IMO.