Keep your party out of my tragedy

Jim Stogdill muses on the emotional and cognitive dissonance produced when realtime messaging systems allow conversation without context:

Since the advent of Twitter I’ve often found myself laughing at funerals, crying at parties, and generally failing time and again to say the right thing. Twitter is so immediate, so of the moment, but it connects people across the globe who may be experiencing very different moments. [...]

For many of us even here in the East, Sandy is basically over. We are fortunate. We have power, food in the refrigerator, and a place to brew our coffee. But all over New Jersey and New York this remains far from true. The storm will be millions of people’s primary context for weeks to come. I can’t help but wonder what it must be like to risk a bit of carefully hoarded smart phone battery, while separated from the flood-ravaged street by flight after flight of dark staircase, to take a quick glance at Twitter only to see “OMFG, will Disney put mouse ears on Darth Vader?”

This is hardly a new phenomenon, but the dissonance does seem more intimate now, more in-your-face.

3 Comments

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3 Responses to Keep your party out of my tragedy

  1. Mark

    Well, to start with, don’t go to Twitter. It’s really easy to do. When you think about Twitter you say to yourself, I don’t go to shallow places like that.

    If you go to places where dissonance is in your face then it is not the fault of the medium–it’s yours.

    I don’t know who Jim Stogdill but he needs to raise his standards and use his time better.

  2. Nah. Disasters happen all the time. The problem is that statistically, most of them happen to poor people, and in far-off places. This particular one (Sandy) happened to hit the media capital of the world. So of course it’s of an intensity unlike most others – socially, that is :-( .

    I mean, he’s not wondering what it must be like to be homeless and hungry and need medical care, and hear some well-off radio talk-show flack bloviating about how cutting social services will make the super-rich happy.

    Actually, reading the whole piece, I think you’re focused on the wrong end – this was the telling part for me: “usually my tweet stream is the exposed consciousness of a single tribe..

  3. Daniel Cole

    It’s certainly true that at the macro level this is not a new phenomenon. What’s new (in the mass e-communication age) is that this schizophrenia is now taking place more and more WITHIN the individual, rather than simply at the social or political level.

    There haven’t really been clear lines of demarcation; it’s a gradual process. Space has been further abolished by every new advance in efficient communication technology, from the postal system to the telegraph to the internet. It’s in the process of dissolving within our consciousness now as well, to the extent that we communicate in this way. Space once naturally partitioned thought, and now, as in the case with the twitter jokes at the funeral, we find that we have to reinforce those partitions purposefully if we desire them; they can no longer be taken for granted.

    We can avoid this to a degree by staying “offline” in such situations, but it now requires a conscious decision to go against that grain. Even the most militant luddite is likely to find they are forced to either a practically Unabomber level of isolation or an increasing degree of acceptance of the system as it grows. Technologies have a way of becoming structural in our society. We’d like to think we can just tune out, but imagine someone still holding out against the telephone now, or even cell phones. It only grows more ridiculous with time.