Trying to imagine life without social media

I tried to recall life without social media. Wasn’t it just a few years ago when I walked around without a portable device strapped to my waist, a device willing to announce my every grunt, burp and fart to the external world, if I only let it?

Without social media, my concentration would improve, that much I am sure. I would not be constantly interrupting my daily chores to go check that infernal device for the latest chat or inspirational message. My self esteem would mature for I would not have those “likes” to prop me up but would have to “like” myself instead. I could spend many hours with just me and my thoughts and reap the inspiration that comes from a stilled mind. I would not suffer from “too much information,” a syndrome that makes you skim the surface of everything, just to cope, and miss some of the major issues in the process. I will get to talk to people instead of sending them written messages even when they are in the next room. Friendships will be few but more lasting and not something to be activated and deactivated with the push of a button.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t be “famous but poor” anymore. Instead, I would be “unknown and still poor.” I wouldn’t get to play closet politician anymore for my audience will have disappeared. I’ll have to stand up in my little room and declaim, to myself. Or join a political party and schmooze my way to the top over a number of years, not in mere days that it took me in the social media world. I would not have a test market for my writing. I would not be connected to the pulse of my peers, forever unplugged from their thoughts, drives, fetishes and joys. I would not be let into their living rooms, introduced to their families, invited as a virtual guest to their parties, or exposed to their embarrassing moments when they suffered mental or wardrobe malfunction and decided to share (or bare) all via the instant photos uploaded to my “stream.” Yes, I would have to kiss goodbye to my voyeuristic but engaged life.

Someone recently told me that “there is no going back.” We seem to have crossed a threshold into a new pattern of social behaviour that is irreversible. And I am not sure we are unique in that respect. Did people go back on their old habits when new inventions collided with their social lives in the past: the telephone, the TV, the car, the supermarket, the microwave, and canned food? Digitization and sharing has now replaced the communal life of the village where everybody knows everything about everyone else. Even the anonymity of cities—something I used to love to escape to occasionally—is breaking down under the new rules of conduct, where city dwellers cooped up in glass towers and matchbox condos, ostensibly isolated, are connecting with each other like never before.

Okay, so there is no going back, we are the social media generation, suck it up and get on with it. But there needs to be some “information firewall behaviour” called for; the confidence to switch on and off when needed, without the pressure to be “always on” in order to be relevant, despite Facebook and Twitter sending you those “How are you doing?” messages when you are minding your own business, or Klout warning you that your score is dropping because you have been silent for awhile. Taking social media•less vacations is a good idea, and retreats from “always on” to just read a book is also good for the soul. And most importantly, selfishly carving out time for contemplation and meditation is paramount.

Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, where did leave my Blackberry…? There really is no going back, is there?

Is the e-book going to stall without standards?

Let’s see, a hard cover is a hard cover no matter which bookstore you buy it from, and a trade paperback is the same. But an e•book? At the technology end, there are formats as diverse as Kindles and .epubs and PDFs and PDPs. On the distribution side, separate distribution agreements are required for Nook, Apple and B&N, and of course Amazon is an enclave unto itself. On the device end, e•readers have already ceded to tablets and the innovation of non•glitter screens are losing out to the old laptop•style back•lit screen variety

How does one find an e•book that is readable on any device and purchasable universally? Not yet, is the answer, because this industry is so young, and its leaders are struggling for supremacy, just like VHS and Betamax duked it out once upon a time until one fell and left a lot of us holding redundant equipment. But what if the dust settles on perhaps two, or three e•book platforms, like it did in the software industry with Microsoft, Apple and Linux? Then, which one would you buy? Or would you just shrug and go back to buying a trusty old tree•book and let the electronic varieties kill each other off a bit more until only one is left standing (and hopefully not too bruised to also succumb shortly thereafter)?

Standards eventually evolve when an industry matures, and I was heartened when that proprietary behemoth Microsoft signalled a truce and ditched its .lit format and embraced what could be the industry standard, .epub. Will that other proprietary monolithic hold•out of the book industry, Amazon, also send the same signal, turf its kindle standard, embrace .epub and bring e•books into prime time? Time will tell. In the meantime, we wait and watch and buy platform•agnostic tablets, hedging our bets. And we desperately hope that a savvy middle•man, one who can marry the fragmented ends of supply and demand of this emerging channel, does not emerge to siphon away the bulk of the shrinking revenues, holding us all to ransom, just like history has played out in the past in other once•emergent industries.

This saga continues to evolve…by the hour…stay tuned.