Now I find I am in that generation, according to someone from his generation, still using Facebook. Doesn’t everyone use Facebook? No, turns out, his generation doesn’t. Facebook was okay “for its time,” but he and his crowd are turning to Twitter.
His generation, the one mentioned on a local NPR station in Kansas City earlier this week, just graduated high school and is now heading off to college. By that reckoning, the generation stuck on Facebook now includes everybody over eighteen. Facebook just isn’t where it’s at. Not for them, not anymore.
This may mean I need to rethink my long-term FB stock position.
The radio discussion started out centered on teens and technology. The panel was asked whether kids whose parents monitored their Facebook statuses while they were in middle school (when most of them joined Facebook) should now be “unfriended” as the students move toward adulthood.
That’s a point of social etiquette I’d never considered. One panelist asserted she was unfriending her mom as soon as she hit the campus dorm. Why? It was a sign of her coming maturity, she said. She was on her own and an adult. Yup, that’s what adults do, unfriend their parents.
For the young man and “his” generation, though, it hardly mattered because he was so beyond Facebook it was no longer relevant. Parents or no parents, it didn’t matter. He had moved to another social grid.
For the generation ahead of him, Facebook is still the social media choice. But his generation (I remember that phrase being used a lot) doesn’t like reading all the words showing up in status updates.
On Facebook, he observed, picture this, people go on for “paragraphs and paragraphs.”
People put something up and “it’s nice they get lots of ‘likes,’” but that’s not what he needs. He just wants his word out there, quick and bold, in 140 characters or less. That’s all anybody needs to read and it’s all he wants to read.
We are shrinking the medium of conversation, compressing our thoughts and words, and, I think, becoming less attentive to one another.
Word compression even affects On the Square. Eight hundred words or so are ideal for serious web readers. It’s been researched. Sometimes, don’t tell anybody, I sneak in more. Usually my editor finds them anyway and there they go. Poof!
When I start a piece, I need a first draft, typically of twelve hundred words, to fully develop an idea, but that’s too long for a weblog. Readers do dislike scrolling (so do I), just as they dislike newspaper pages saying “continued on page 8A.” So I grind my words down to a more tolerable total.
I once sent out an email to several other On the Square authors asking if they wouldn’t lend me some of their excess words now and again, but nobody replied. No words to spare, I guess. We guard our web words zealously.
For yet further reader ease, authors are asked now to provide resource links within the text, like regular weblogs, rather than at the end of the article as resource footnotes, as before. Okay, but—hard as this is for me to imagine—what if the reader hits the link and finds it more interesting than anything I’ve got to say about it? Personally, I’m cautious giving you too much leeway. I’d prefer making you wait to the end before revealing anything. (I’ve already lost you, haven’t I?)
Dunno, maybe I’m just slower, being that generation. But instant communication was supposed to connect us more intimately, wasn’t it, and here we are, apparently drifting further apart. I cannot think this is good, scrunching our conversations down to so little. Our shriveling discourse with one another, our ever shorter exchanges and undeveloped rim-fired speculations: Is this how we seemingly have come to talk past each other? If that is happening with the small topics, what is happening with the big ones?
How can we really understand one another, hear each other, if we are too impatient to give ourselves the space we need to fill out an idea, both on the page and in the public square?
Uh, listen, I’m feeling a little blue talking about this. Can I get some “likes” here?
Russell E. Saltzman is dean of the Great Plains Mission District of the North American Lutheran Church, assistant pastor of St. Matthew's Church in Riverside, Missouri, and an online homilist for the Christian Leadership Center at the University of Mary. His book Speaking of the Dead is nearing completion. His previous “On the Square” articles can be found here.