According to Julie

Leaving the inforati and their mutually assured distraction


I saw a man balancing four lidless paper cups of coffee on an iPad. It happened three months ago, and I still have not tweeted about it. It took me months to blog about it, and now it feels like it’s too late.

It was such a good use of an Apple product, and it was wasted on my lack of Twitter and blogging addiction.

I didn’t know I had started to think in tweets until I realized I had stopped.

When I couldn’t write, I missed writing. But I didn’t miss the constant e-mails, Facebook updates and tweets. And now that my wrist is all better, I vaguely want to go back to my old social media habits, but find that I kind of can’t be bothered.

Twitter is great. I’ve met very interesting, smart and friendly people through Twitter, and they have taught me a lot. But when I read this article about smartphone manners, I realized that I could relate a bit too much to this description of the “inforati” at a conference:

We were adjacent but essentially alone, texting and talking our way through what should have been a great chance to engage flesh-and-blood human beings. The wait in line for panels, badges or food became one more chance to check in digitally instead of an opportunity to meet someone you didn’t know.

After the panel, one of the younger people in the audience came up to me to talk earnestly about the importance of actual connection, which was nice, except he was casting sidelong glances at his iPhone while we talked. I’m not even sure he knew he was doing it. It’s not just conferences full of inforati where this happens. In places all over America (theaters, sports arenas, apartments), people gather in groups only to disperse into lone pursuits between themselves and their phones.

This article describes updating our online presence as a way of making sure we keep sitting at the popular kid’s table. It felt great that people kept following me on Twitter even when I had to stay away from it for weeks at a time. But the opportunity to make new connections must be balanced with the importance of concentrating on what we’re already doing. As a journalist, I consider Twitter part of my job. As a student, I still consider it a research tool. But if I spend too much time sending information out relative to the time I spend studying or having real-life experiences, I will run out of things to say.

Which is why I am wary of people who claim to be “interested in social media”. I think we should try to be more interested in what we’re trying to say, and less obsessed with the fact that we are saying something.


Image sources: 1 and 2

5 thoughts on “Leaving the inforati and their mutually assured distraction

  1. I read this piece by you right after I read this article:

    Both pieces has the same message: social media is problematic. But is it?

    Smith feels social media flattens us out, makes us more mainstream, and that it deducts something from our personalities. The way we define ourselves influences who we are, and since facebook = lack of anonymity, she believes it makes us less broad. If we define ourselves only by the things we are comfortable with the world knowing, then do we become our profiles? (She also seems to believe that people on facebook are retarded and think someone is still alive as long as their profile is. I hope that part was meant as a joke, but if so it was in poor taste).

    Your piece says that people are paying less attention because we’re never fully in the moment. We’re always online, always logged in, never fully where we are physically.

    I’m not sure if I agree with either of you, at least not fully. The last conference I went to had free wifi and their own hashtag in case someone wanted to tweet live. They filmed the speakers and put them up online too, so that people could follow the discussions even if they weren’t there. They had simultaneous translation with individual headsets for those of us who didn’t speak both French and English (though, as it turns out, I can now understand French well enough to take them off). All of this added to the experience for me. At the end of the conference, I met five new people who all paid full attention, even if we did take a break in our conversations to pull up our phones and connect online. Afterwards I’ve gotten invites to two other interesting conferences and connected with these people on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Networking has never been this easy, nor as enjoyable, and nobody I talked to glanced sideways at their phone or ipad.

    I don’t think Facebook has made me flatter either. It’s just made me able to snoop on people I otherwise wouldn’t have kept in touch with. Not saying that’s necessarily a good thing, but I have some fun with it.

    In case you’re not completely sold on the joys of social media and the internet from that, I give you this true story: Read to the end and tell me you still think social media is taking something away from us, rather than adding to our lives.

  2. Woah, I certainly don’t think social media is taking more than adding to our lives! See for example these Norwegian posts on the importance of social media for journalists: and for teachers:
    I am also a proud member of the Girl Geeks and the Norwegian Online News Association, both groups that love social media and meet in the way you describe. But I can still relate to that article, I still know that I missed writing long e-mails and blog posts more than I missed 140 characters when I couldn’t write, and I still feel great now that I am spending more time learning stuff I can eventually publish rather than publishing stuff constantly. Really, this blog post is personal, not about my principals or generalizations about social media.

    • Okay okay. Retracting claws. I must have read more into what you said than you did. It’s just that, even if it takes two hours of my day on average, I love connecting with people online. Especially now that I live in a different country.

      But as to what you’re saying, I’ve started enjoying the cinema more. Part of that reason is that it’s a commitment to doing nothing other than watching a movie. No multitasking available (I’ve even given up on popcorn).

  3. Pingback: Why I don’t give personal social media advice | According to Julie

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