This blog post will make more sense if you read Packer’s original piece.
Stop the World, I Need to Get Off
by George Packer’s subconscious
I was trying to take my mind off Twitter so I waited for the mail carrier to deliver my copy of The Baffler, a magazine for people who want to seem smart. I know you’ve never heard of this magazine – that’s why I’m telling you about it.
The Baffler appeals to young readers and writers on the margins of journalism and academia, people who don’t use the Internet and who ignore websites like Gawker. When us Internet-phobes are done reading the magazine and not understanding most of the articles, we use it (and the blue nylon bookmark glued in the spine) to clean up the mess from our regular circle jerks.
Wait, I’m not really sure why I’m writing about The Baffler because this article is supposed to be about Twitter and how much I hate it. Oh, right, The Baffler people paid me to mention their magazine. Oops! Will I have to deal with the new FCC disclosure policies now?
I’ve never used Twitter, and I’m not really sure what it is so let me distract you from this fact by quoting William F. Buckley. In 1955, he declared that his magazine, The National Review, “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” Buckley ended up riding history, and even guiding it. I kind of wish I could do that so I will yell “Stop” too.
Stop! I feel like yelling it a lot these days.
Stop sharing so much information on the Internet – you’re making us writers look bad. We can’t keep up, and we don’t understand how social networking works.
Stop! I said, to my editors.
Though I usually write about foreign affairs, books, and politics, I woke up this morning and decided that I hate writing about these things.
Stop! No more! I want to write about something new.
Every time I hear about Twitter, I want to yell Stop, but I don’t because I’m afraid the people talking about Twitter will ask me why I hate it so much. I won’t have a good answer because, like I said before, I’ve never actually used Twitter. I’ve read about it, though – you can send and receive brief updates from dozens or thousands of people every few minutes.
Having to listen to regular people? People who didn’t graduate from Ivy league universities? Sounds like information hell to me.
I only want to listen to people who speak in complicated metaphors. The way I do. I’m told that Twitter is a river into which I can dip my cup whenever I want. But that supposes we’re all kneeling on the banks. In fact, if you’re at all like me, you’re trying to keep your footing out in midstream, with the water level always dangerously close to your nostrils. Twitter sounds less like sipping than drowning.
Terrorism? Doesn’t scare me one bit. 9/11? That was nothing compared to social networking.
I nearly pissed myself when I read that New York Times piece by David Carr, brilliant media critic who is actually qualified to write about Twitter because he uses it regularly and well. His piece, “Why Twitter Will Endure.”, pulled smart-ass writer Laryssa Wirstiuk out of a time of great doubt, during which she questioned the value and staying power of Twitter.
“I’m in narrative on more things in a given moment than I ever thought possible,” Carr wrote. And: “Twitter becomes an always-on data stream from really bright people.” And: “The real value of the service is listening to a wired collective voice … the throbbing networked intelligence.” And: “On Twitter, you are your avatar and your avatar is you.” And finally: “There is always something more interesting on Twitter than whatever you happen to be working on.”
This last thing is what really worries me. I can’t stand the idea that someone, somewhere in the world is working on something more interesting than I am. I’m George Fucking Packer, and everything I write is the most interesting thing at any given moment.
Carr obviously can’t deal with reality. Is he on drugs? He used to be addicted to crack. I read about it in “The Night of the Gun” because I read, in case you didn’t know.
I want to avoid Twitter because I know that I have an addictive personality and can’t handle the possibility of something consuming my life. I have no self control. I’m so scared, so scared that if I start using Twitter I might let my son go hungry.
I don’t have a BlackBerry, or an iPhone, or a Google phone, and I don’t intend to get an iPad. I don’t like to show people my Samsung phone (shoutout to Samsung!) because I’m scared they will judge me. They won’t take me seriously.
But I just can’t figure out how to use those freaking BlackBerries. Too many features.
When I ride Amtrak, I sit in the Quiet Car and shut everything off – I like to pat myself on the back and tell myself how awesome I am for doing this. But most people are doing the same because Amtrak doesn’t have WiFi.
I’m worried that my career is going to fall apart because I can’t keep up with appointments and cancellations. I have to call my wife to make sure that I’m not missing anything.
I’ve tried my best to escape technological advances, but I’m starting to realize that I have to keep up if I want to remain competitive in the job market. I’m holding on desperately to my New Yorker byline and my reputation as a political and war correspondent, even though I don’t even really like to write about those things anymore.
What will I do if I have to get a BlackBerry? Who will teach me how to use it? You know what they call those things?
CrackBerries. I don’t want to be like Carr. Help me!
If it looks like I’m waving, I’m not waving, but drowning.*
*”Not Waving but Drowning” by Steve Smith. Because I read.
(Photo by edu_fon)