Is human culture collapsing under the weight of its own verbiage?

I just quoted this article from Charlie Brooker in the section of Social Media for Academics about ‘how to ensure you’re not wasting your time when you should be doing real work’. I’ve begun to feel like this about social media sometimes (particularly Twitter) and I thought my own feelings about this could be a helpful way to structure the wider discussion in the book:

I’ve recently been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of jabber in the world: a vast cloud of blah I felt I was contributing to every seven days.

If a weatherman misreads the national mood and cheerfully sieg-heils on BBC Breakfast at 8.45am, there’ll be 86 outraged columns, 95 despairing blogs, half a million wry tweets and a rib-tickling pass-the-parcel Photoshop meme about it circulating by lunchtime. It happens every day. Every day, a billion instantly conjured words on any contemporaneous subject you can think of. Events and noise, events and noise; everything was starting to resemble nothing but events and noise. Firing more words into the middle of all that began to strike me as futile and unnecessary. I started to view myself as yet another factory mindlessly pumping carbon dioxide into a toxic sky.


But then right now I don’t “get” most forms of communication. There’s just so much of it. Everybody talking at once and all over each other; everyone on the planet typing words into their computers, for ever, like I’m doing now. I fail to see the point of roughly 98% of human communication at the moment, which indicates I need to stroll around somewhere quiet for a bit.

I’m taking a break from my own personal Twitter account for this reason. Ultimately I can’t really take a break from social media (given it’s my job, at least 0.6 of the time, as well as my commitment to SI and the fact I’ve become disturbingly dependent on blogging to develop my thoughts) but hopefully whatever step back I can take will help restore some of my currently waning enthusiasm.

Categories: Digital Sociology

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1 reply »

  1. You said you were disturbingly dependent on your blog to develop your thoughts. In light of you observations about the “noise” in social media, why is blogging needed for developing the thinking behind something you want to write. Granted it is very helpful for us to write down our thoughts and review them. Maybe step away and come back with fresh eyes. I may be misunderstanding. If by blogging you meant generate drafts, I totally get it. The process of writing often clarifies our thoughts. If you meant blogging as in publishing the blog, then just don’t do that step. Review it later. Or share it with a trusted colleague or friend for insight. I share this because I have started using the classic draft and develop approach to writing and just not posting until my thought processes and the end piece has gelled. Otherwise I find the responses and my subsequent reactions just take me further off target. It is the posting of the drafts “aka blogs in media-speak” that is the distraction. And it is so seductively training us to constantly respond rather than take the time to think and reason it all out. Ultimately, we all have to slow down. I appreciate your perspective and wish us both well.

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