I’ve been so heads down working on the DEMOfall conference (It’s going to be great, by the way) that I failed to realize what I chump I am.
All along, I’ve been using Twitter to keep an ear to the rail. I nurture my “following” list and am ceaselessly fascinated by the things people are doing, what they’ve discovered, and what they find necessary to share with a more or less anonymous world. Yes, I also use Twitter to keep a presence in the world; that way you all think I’m out and about when in truth I’m home watching So You Think You Can Dance (Will is going to win it, I’m sure of it. Update: In a measure of my predictive abilities, Will was voted off the show just hours after I posted this column.).
Then yesterday, Twitter pukes and the relationship database goes haywire. Followers are mowed down by the hundreds. The hue and cry is deafening. “Where, oh where,” the Twitterati wail, “are all my followers?”
Twitter tells us they are “working to restore missing followers/followings.” They should focus on followers. That’s what people are missing most. The list that proves they are somebody. The place to which we can point and say, “Look, look! Look at all those people looking at me!”
But I’m a chump. I looked at my shrunken “following” list and was bummed. I’d collected all sorts of wonderful people who entertained and enlightened me with their 140-character observations. Now they’re gone, or at least scattered, and I must collect them all over again. Amid the gnashing of teeth, the mourning for lost followers, it seems only @MaryHodder and I care that we lost our links to those we follow.
Oddly enough, and as things seem to do, this Twitter burp happened as I was in mid-debate about the “egosphere” – that universe of bloggers who, but for blogging tools, might languish in relative obscurity.
Blog tools and audience-cultivating services like Twitter, FriendFeed and the like have enabled hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people to find their stage, to become real stars by proving their wit, wisdom, and experience with insightful commentary and a well-turned phrase.
For each of these new stars, though, there must be a dozen more who, using Technorati ranking and Twitter followers as a measure of their worth, have become social media egomaniacs. They believe their stats. They are read. They are followed. Ergo, they are important, worthy, superior, a VIP.
They link, comment, tweet, and post. They must feed the monster. But do they listen, contemplate, analyze? There is no need. They are stars. The numbers say so.
Meanwhile, millions toil beyond the blogosphere. Silly people suffering under the illusion that thoughtfulness, courtesy, and experience matter. They are the chumps who put in long hours to pay the mortgage, who race outside in their pajamas to make sure the trashcan gets to the curb before the garbage guy does, who believe one must earn a place in the world.
In an opinion piece in today’s San Jose Mercury News, Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Victor Davis Hanson blames the “legacy of the 60s” for spawning the “Me Generation” that is everything wrong with politics today.
If he’s correct (and I’d argue that the problem is bigger than politics and a product of early 80s “Reagan Babies”), then the blogosphere, Twitter, and dozens of other social tools have given the Me Generation a mega platform from which it issues that most primal adolescent cry: “Hey, Mom! Look at me!”
I call it unchecked self-importance, reinforced by those who mistake having an audience for having something to say. Yesterday, the audience – at least for a time – went away. And those with little to say and no one to say it to spoke loudest of all.