This is not a post about cloud computing. This is a commentary on digital culture. On this very blog, we wrote: “we come armed with laptops, digital cameras, flip video recorders, Internet accessible phones and a desire to learn from everyone and everything we encounter.” So after a week of lugging all this tech around, blogging about tweeting… tweeting about blogging, and always having our noses up against the screens of our laptops, it feels weird to unplug. The Digital Cloud has descended upon us, it’s dark confines obscuring the vision of the real world.
There is no arguing that Twitter makes connecting with those around you easier and more beneficial. But at what cost? When does it become time to just unplug, go on a hike, or lay in the sun? After a week at SXSW it would seem that there is never time for that. All of these technologies that were created to make our lives better, easier, and more productive have changed our lives forever.
I’m by no means an expert at Twitter. In fact, I’m not an expert at anything (that’s the point, I’m a student!) But after about eight months of tweeting, I’m beginning to get a pretty solid grasp on it’s ups and its downs.
The thing I like most about it is that it’s an incredibly easy way to constantly pick the brains of people you think are interesting. Imagine being at a table with 400 of the people who most inspire you. As they stare back at you, their glances bring with them everything that’s on their minds, everything they think is interesting. You can then choose any or all of these thoughts and ideas to engage them in a conversation. If it weren’t for Twitter putting you all at the same table, you would never know about this hot new digital trend, what keeps your idol up at night, or that your favorite agency head is hiring. That’s Twitter. That’s the fluffy cloud of connectivity.
What Twitter is not, though, is a replacement for real-world interactions. The more followers you get, the more used to updating you become, the sooner your ego starts to take over. Suddenly you have goals to get more followers like you’ve become the leader of a cult. With this obsession also comes the feeling that every 140 characters must be insightful, poetic gold that is re-tweeted 100 times.
So there you find yourself, sitting next to the guy who would have hired you, staring at your laptop and tweeting in the middle of a presentation. Bruce Sterling calls this the death of the audience. He says that you are so disengaged when you are tweeting and live-blogging and chatting that you have removed the most crucial aspect of authorship. Without an audience, nothing can be authored. But it can be good for presentations too. Twitter allows real-time feedback and questions to the speakers, enabling them to modify their presentation to become more relevant and engaging.
So I’m not suggesting that you delete your Facebook account, lose all your Twitter followers, or stop sharing information. What I’m suggesting is a little more moderation. 90% of the time I embrace this world and enjoy the role it plays in my personal and professional development. The other 10% is spent running as far away as possible from the digital cloud, cherishing real-world experiences. Shifting these percentages closer to the center, and embracing the benefits of both the technological revolution and the need for human interaction, will allow us to grow within the current framework of The Digital Cloud and preserve our sanity.