I recently watched an interesting C-Span interview about the future of the internet featuring Evan Williams and Biz Stone, the co-founders of Twitter. This video addressed everything from Twitter’s influence on the “Arab Spring” (a revolution organized by social media users that erupted in numerous Arab countries during the spring of 2011. These uprisings threatened the governmental structures of many Arab nations and lead to the fall of some regimes.) to the potential of more collaborations between amateur and professional software writers.
What I found most interesting about this televised interview was the brief point made by Evan Williams that, while social media brings us together in many ways, other tools such as downloadable applications (“apps”) may actually be moving us away from each other (This part of the interview begins on the C-Span video around 22:57. You can watch it by clicking on the following link: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/FutureoftheInternet5). The discussion begins with talking about going from web-based content to publishing exclusively via downloadable applications. Evan mentions that “I think in many ways Apps are a step backwards from the web because they’re not connectable”. The interviewer, Walter Isaacson (formerly of the New York Times), then likened mobile applications to the AOL of the 1990’s.
Why did this quick soundbite stick in my head? Well, perhaps it is directly applicable to my life. I recently purchased my first smart phone over the summer after much arm twisting and sales pitches from my boyfriend (he should work for Sprint, I swear!). After bringing my new baby home (that is how attached to it I have become) I began playing around with all of its features and discovered the wonderful world of applications. There is an app for almost everything. Thanks to applications I am now able to listen to radio stations broadcasted from my native Trinidad & Tobago or New York City. I can browse the Huffington Post and Al Jazeera without using my web browser. I can even connect directly to Twitter (which I have yet to sign up for) and Skype my friend in London while on the road! Applications have seemingly made my life that much easier (I say seemingly because, in all honesty, do I really NEED any of these applications to live productively? No, but I like them a whole lot) and I feel like I am more connected than ever to the world around me because of them. What I had noticed though, while browsing through and downloading the many free apps in the apps store is that, while I have all of these resources at my fingertips, I no longer really need to sift through information that doesn’t typically interest me.
While it is a good thing that I am able to filter out all things irrelevant to my world, I also believe that some information that I do not want to receive is important nonetheless. By bypassing the internet and all of its SPAM, I am missing out on learning more about what is going on in the world outside of my world. For instance, while I am interested in U.S. politics to an extent, I don’t want to read about what the Tea Party is doing from day to day or who is undermining the president’s efforts this week. However, when Michelle Bachman says something totally out of left field, because I was not on the web aimlessly browsing and being inundated by whatever news is floating out there, I am sure to miss it. Like the time she said that the founding fathers had worked tirelessly to abolish slavery, even though they themselves were slave owners. I found out about that gaffe a whole month after she said it because I actively avoid most news about her or most things political at the moment.
Since we all know that communication is a 2-way street, I am really interested to know what you readers out there think about all of this. Do you think I misinterpreted what he is saying about applications and lack of connect-ability? Should I give Michelle Bachman a chance? Any bits of news or information that you find interesting that you want to expose me too? I am ready to hear from you!
In an upcoming post I will explore a little more the idea that social media is actually drawing us apart rather than bringing us together. As with any opinion, there are opposing viewpoints on this idea. Stay tuned.