my corner of solipsism

Let Them Savor Tweets

In her New York Times article "Let Them Eat Tweets", (April 16th, 2009 NYT Magazine, Virginia Heffernen identifies with a Bruce Sterling's proposal at the South by Southwest conference that the clearest symbol of poverty is dependence on "connections" like Internet, Skype, and texting. Sterling suggests that "The man of leisure savors solitude, or intimacy with friends, presumably surround by books and films and paintings and wines". Quoting a friend, her article puts forth the idea that "Connectivity is poverty"; "Only the poor - defined broadly as those without better options- are obsessed with their connections".
I'm sorry Ms. Heffernen, but what era are you living in? Gone are the days of a ruling aristocracy that created an environment in which the upper echelon of society could occupy their time with frequent face-to-face social gatherings and exchange banter the likes of which we hear only in a 1800s British novel. During the pre-democracy periods of aristocracy , the ease of hiring cheap labor (no minimum wage or child working laws in that day) allowed people to follow their dreams of pursuing art, music, travel, and living lives free of the encumbrances of life's mundane chores. A guest could easily stop by for dinner at a moments notice, as there were always "staff' available to see to it that hosts and guests every need were meet as they enjoyed their visit. The privileged, the rich, honed their language skills, practicing witty statements and wry retorts to regale those with whom they might share a brush of the cheek or a dance on floor at the next large social gathering. Their sentences were as replete with flourishes as ours are bereft of even proper spelling. Whr r u?
Life is messier today, and what Heffernan refers to as "swampy, boggy, inescapable connectivity", bemoaning the fact that her "middle-class existence has stuck me here", smacks of either her naivety of what the deeper connections that Twitter and other social media tools offer, or provides us with a painful view of her over-stretched neck looking upward with envy at the contemporary upper class. Today, the super rich, represent a much smaller portion of the population; but indeed, their wealth enable them to emulate the lives of 1800 European Aristocracy. The other 95% of us have busy lives. There is no handmaiden ready to assist us in dressing for the evening's guests, no cooks to brilliantly set the table's fest, and no 24/7 nanny to tend to the crying babes. Months may go by before we can actually have dinner with a friend or family member we have been meaning to see. Nothing takes the place of personal interaction; but in our modern busy life; social media tools can fill a gap. It is a "second best" conduit (much better than none) to reach out and share our life's joys and tears with those close to us. It also serves as a powerful medium in which to widen the circle of people with whom we share interests, thoughts, and idiosyncrasies. A shared laugh on twitter, the instantaneous ability to pull a group together at a local hangout at with a simple tweet, and sharing newborn pictures on the Facebook without spamming anyone simply brings us closer. It is not a sign of impoverishment, but rather astute use of tools that allow us be more human as well as more connected and in a very busy and isolated world.

Posted by Kirsten Waerstad on Sun, Apr 19, 2009 @ 14:04 PM