Facebook and Twitter: bane of the blogger

Fail.I’ve been writing this blog for about seven years now. My engagement with it has gone through its ups and downs; there were periods in 2004 and 2005 where I’d go for a month or more without posting. But over the last three years or so I kept up a pretty reliable stream of posts, until some point early this year when I started using Facebook and Twitter a lot. (I won’t bother linking to them — if you can’t figure out how to find them, you’re probably better off anyway.)

Some people are fairly careless about how they use their blogs (if they have them), Facebook, Twitter, etc. Every online presence is a virtual confessional, therapist’s couch, and personal reality show, all in one. It’s all out there, never mind the aftermath.

I’ve tried to be a bit more careful and organized in my approach to things: I’ll get fairly personal in my blog, but it’s mainly about my geeky interests in technology and music, where personal information (other than my tastes, such as my inexplicable fixation on ’70s progressive rock) is irrelevant. And there are lines I won’t cross.

Facebook is the more personal, friend-oriented venue for me: I assume that what I am writing there is only going to be seen by people I know; people I can reasonably trust and expect to care at some small level about personal details that are irrelevant in the context of a blog. But there are still lines I won’t cross, because it’s hard to keep track of 130+ “friends” and it’s even harder to keep track of Facebook’s nebulous, ever-changing privacy policy.

Twitter is a strange one: many people use it in many different ways. I’ve taken the approach of some blogger/Twitter quasi-celebrities (John “Daring Fireball” Gruber, Merlin “43 Folders” Mann, Andy “Waxy” Baio, Adam “Lonely Sandwich” Lisagor, Jason “Kottke” Kottke) I seek to emulate (though admittedly it’s weird when you get to an age where those you seek to emulate are your peers — or are even younger than you are): Twitter as “microblog.” If you have a clever, “blog-worthy” idea, but you don’t have time to write a blog entry, or it’s pithy enough that you think you can squeeze into 140 characters, Twitter is the perfect venue. It’s a natural complement to Facebook, in some ways: the personal stuff goes to Facebook, the public stuff goes to Twitter.

The problem is, both Facebook and Twitter encourage ill-conceived, dashed-off, incomplete thoughts. Why bother taking the time to contemplate an idea, explore all facets, carefully compose your thoughts, and perfectly craft a 500-word essay no one but yourself (and probably not even you) will ever read?

Well… what are you leaving behind? What is the legacy of your online endeavors?

Instead of a body of intelligent writing that may someday lead to something more useful, or at the very worst, will be something I can point at with a modicum of pride and say, “I did that!” all you’re left with is an unnavigable, treacherous sea of mental jetsam, and the vague sense that, at best, you’ve wasted your time and, at worst, you’ve left the back door wide open for future identity theft, libel suits, employment rejections, or something else that is presently inconceivable but will soon ruin your life because someone figured out a new way to exploit all of the unflattering information you revealed in drunken Facebook postings in 2007.

Wait, was Facebook even around in 2007? The online world is moving so fast, it’s hard to remember days before Facebook and Twitter. You know, the days when, if I wanted some online adulation, I had to take the time to compose my thoughts and write a blog entry (or, at least, write a blog entry, and maybe compose some thoughts along the way), instead of just idly loading Facebook on my iPhone while lazing on the couch and announcing to the world (or at least my so-called “friends”): “OMG! Did U C that stoopid reality show? Those morons on there are total morons… 4 realz!!!1one!”

Maybe it’s time to get less social with my networking, and get back to the one true, perfect venue for narcissistic online exhibitionism: the blog.

Or, as Lewis Black so eloquently put it…

For your reference:

John Gruber: blogTwitter
Merlin Mann: blogTwitter
Andy Baio: blogTwitter
Adam Lisagor: blogTwitter
Jason Kottke: blogTwitter

And finally, to be fair, it’s not entirely Facebook and Twitter that have led to my unfortunate neglect of this blog. Over the past six months I’ve also started two other blogs that have demanded most of my blogging energies: Hall of Prog and 52 Coffees.