In my last post I mentioned that there is a noticeable increase in criticism of the Internet, and mentioned a few books as examples. Today, to my amazement, the entire Book Review section of the November 3 New York Times was devoted to books about this topic, only one of which I have read —more to order. You can see the reviews here, as well as a short article that is worth reading entitled “Is Tech Lit An Oxymoron?”. The books reviewed are not all negative about the Internet in general and social networking in particular, but there is a good bit of that. This is not surprising, since many, if not most writers appreciate the book rather than the tweet and generally view the internet responsible for such things as the near disappearance of small book stores, the dire economic straits of traditional publishers, and the encouragement of brevity in writing at perhaps the cost in style, argument, and general story telling.
One of the books reviewed, by Alice Marwick, apparently singles out a marketing person named Gary Vaynerchuck for particular criticism. Probably coincidentally, he is featured as the cover article entitled “Riding the Hashtag” in the business section of the same issue of the paper. It is here. He is apparently eagerly sought as an expert at Internet marketing and although he is clearly becoming famous and making money, his chosen work is about as far as how I want to spend my time as I can imagine.
I have been using computers for a long time, beginning with using a large IBM mainframe to solve structural and thermal problems in aerospace in the 1950’s, although I must admit I was restricted to giving the problems to programmers, and certainly was not allowed to touch the machine. And I am reasonably competent with contemporary hardware and soft ware . But I retired from active duty on the Stanford faculty before smart phones and social networking became the rage. I obviously have a cell phone, which seems to be a social requirement, but I still do not have a smart phone, because they seem to convert the owner into a constant sender and checker of e-mail and text messages, surfer of the internet, user of apps, etc. I prefer to constrain such activities to a specific time each day, in order to not be interrupted doing other things that are very important to me. Unfortunately I am about to test my self discipline by getting a smart phone, in order to escape going mad using the brand new three-layer security system on Stanford’s network— a task which is simplified through use of a smart phone app. But that is another story.
As I also mentioned in my last post, two or three years ago I began social networking—this blog plus Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin— but have not gotten strongly involved because of a great deal of ambivalence on my part. So far I have been more a watcher than a participant. I have ”friended” some of my actual friends, am followed by people on Twitter, although I have not tried to attract followers, and I have some contacts and have joined some groups on LinkedIn. I can see its benefits, but I neither comfortable with nor willing to spend the time trying to attract and communicate with a large following, and many people I would like to communicate with more are not actively involved in social networking. In addition although I understand the importance of marketing in a capitalistic system, I think people who are constantly marketing themselves or their goods are a pain (I get enough of them on my phone and in print and TV ads) and they are plentiful in social networking. Also, I gain a lot more from personal interaction with fewer people who are working on the same kind of problems I am interested in, than I do from a large crowd of people I have never met. And since I feel guilty not spending more time with the friends I have, I am not looking for new ones. I also prefer communication formats that allow more time than is popular with Internet communications. On the positive side, I must admit I am fascinated by the affect of the Internet and social networking on people, and I can probably see it more clearly as a participant. Maybe I fall in with the book people.
That is why I am glad to see a wider variety of thinking about social networking becoming available in the form of books and articles. I need to decide whether to devote more time and energy to social networking or to quit. It has its good side, and will improve, but I have other activities on my agenda. And the type of deeply thought-out and hopefully substantiated opinions found in books helps me decide such things. As I read the books, I will post more details and my own reactions to them.