Pointless, again

Grant and Tom both dispute this article by Lance Ulanoff: MySpace, Second Life, and Twitter Are Doomed.

Ulanoff begins:

Don’t get too attached to MySpace. You might want to pull up stakes from Second Life, too. And you’ll probably want to stop posting inanities to Twitter. Why? All of these sites will be gone before the end of this decade.

Already, I think Lance is missing the point. I’m not posting to twitter based on some notion of payback at some future date, I’m doing it because it satisfies me right now. As Tom says,

[T]here is something deeply compelling about social-networking…not the specific software or approaches we’re seeing now, as Grant points out, but about the desire to be in contact with other people.

But Ulanoff really goes off the rails here, describing MySpace:

It’s huge, ugly, unmonitored, unrestrained, and pointless.

Yes, it’s that pointless point again. MySpace is pointless to Ulanoff so he seems to assume it’s pointless to all its participants. But clearly it’s not pointless to them or they wouldn’t be there. It’s a shame he responds to this by dismissing it, instead of asking himself: hang on, what am I missing here?

What I think he’s missing is that most of our social discourse is, on one level, trivial – but the trivia are actually the little bits of interaction around which we build relationships. I wonder if Ulanoff thinks coffee shops and pubs would do better if they banned all that pointless conversation so that people could get on with the real purpose of being there?

Tom pretty much nails it thus:

Focusing on social-networking hype is like looking at the map while driving through Yosemite: you’re so busy trying to figure out where you are that you’re missing the amazing things going on all around you.

4 thoughts on “Pointless, again

  1. Robert Paterson

    Hi J

    I agree – I am coming to understand that it is the “trivial” that I find compelling – your plumber travails etc.

    Why? Am I a very trivial person? Maybe. But I like to think that humans are also designed to share the trivial with special people – Gossip = Grooming = closeness and trust.

    My bet is that we are wired to like this. So then what could be the point?

    Makes us feel more alive – not bad!

    Builds trust – so that if we want – we can also go hunting (work) with each other

    A much better alternative to being “focused’ all the time

  2. Devon

    Hi Johnnie,

    Nice to meet you at the Green Thing meeting this morning. I didn’t realize that you had a connection to the improv world. I’ve been improvising for years, both in Chicago where I trained and here in London. (I’ve also taught improv workshops.)

    Improv in Chicago is very much a community and is one that embraced online social networking well before MySpace et al. There were a few very key improv forums that really brought people in the Chicago improv community together (circa 2001) and connected Chicago improvisers to performers in other cities. Now most improv groups have a MySpace and/or Facebook page to connect with friends and fans. What I learned from back in the forum days is that 1) a lot of people have idle time to kill at work, 2) the seemingly ‘pointless’ banter actually draws people in the online community closer when they meet up in the ‘real’ world. MySpace might be gone by the end of the decade, but if it is, it will be because it’s been replaced by something better, not because people don’t want to connect – even just to share the ‘pointless’.

    There is also something about the ‘Yes And’ philosophy that pervades into social networking. Whereas blogs sometimes invite negativity, when you’re part of a group, e.g. someone’s friend on Facebook, it’s all very positive. Otherwise the community, just like in an improv scene, goes nowhere.

    Would be interested to hear your thoughts!



  3. Johnnie Moore

    Hi Devon: Yes, I think tools like Twitter et al simply create a explicit trail of stuff that goes on all the time but isn’t being recorded – to whit the so-called small-talk which actually is a vital part of our relationships.

    And nice to make your acquaintance online as well as in person…

  4. Jon Husband

    a explicit trail of stuff that goes on all the time but isn’t being recorded – to whit the so-called small-talk which actually is a vital part of our relationships.

    Arguably, what passes for most of our daily life activiyies outside of sleeping, eating and basic personal management.


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