(With apologies to The Buggles).
When compact discs first appeared on the market, I resisted them for many years, despite their advocates’ claims regarding their superior sonic quality and durability. My reluctance to adopt this new technology was not based on lack on interest in its purported benefits, but rather because I was the proud owner of some 2,000 vinyl albums — and I knew that once I made the leap to a more effortless platform for music listening, I would never return to the collection of clumsier, fragile, two-sided platters in which I’d invested so much time and money.
Of course, I finally succumbed to the allure of CDs and eventually sold off most of my vinyl, long before hipsters made pops and scratches cool again. And then iPods came along, and I also resisted their allure for a couple of years, while anxiously staring at the now massive piles of compact discs I’d accumulated over the prior two decades — many of them containing music that I’d already purchased in now unplayable (by me) vinyl or cassette editions.
No surprise, then, that the same cycle repeated itself again, and I now find myself with a catalog of some 12,000 songs stored on my computer (with external backup, of course), while my compact discs gather dust and take up shelf space. Once again, I find myself purchasing certain songs and albums for the third, fourth, or maybe fifth time, doing my fair share to support the artists I admire. (I should note that I never bought into the whole Napster-spawned “music should be free” paradigm; that always felt like theft to me, even if “everyone” else was doing it). I guess that’s progress, sort of, though each step forward comes with a wistful, lingering sense of loss for that which came before.
In contrast to my reluctance to embrace new musical technology for fear of devaluing my prior investments or losing access to my catalogs, for most of the past quarter century, I’ve been been very quick to homestead or adopt the new communications platforms offered by the world wide web. I’ve not generally felt any sense of loss or regret as I moved from ASCII bulletin boards to Compuserve’s Rocknet Forum to the Xnet2 Liste to my own website (you are here) to a blog (you are also here) to any number of social media platforms and virtual communities, some of them passing fancies, some of them long-standing online homes. Each step forward was generally a better one, or at least a lateral move, and if I lost something in transition, it was usually something I was glad to leave behind.
Until now, that is, thanks to Twitter. I resisted the ubiquitous micro-blogging application when it first came along, not because I worried about it impacting my other online platforms, but because I frankly didn’t see the use or benefit to typing in 140-character blocks of text on a phone. I can barely say “hello” that briefly — because I am a writer, sir, not a sparrow! Still, philosophical grumpiness aside, I eventually established a Twitter account, largely for work purposes, and occasionally tweeted the odd bon mot to the small cadre of folks who followed me, while continuing to chug away on my blog and other online outlets. It seemed but a mild diversion.
But then last year I finally grew tired of the soul-sapping force of social media communities like Facebook and dropped all of those platforms, and I found myself foraging Twitter more often for the sorts of political and cultural piffle and tripe that I used to harvest in Zuckerland and environs. And then I started responding to the things I found there, forcing my natural verbosity into the tiny chunks of text that the Twitter Gods allowed me to share, even embracing such terrible writing habits as substituting “&” for “and,” or not spelling out numbers lower than twelve (12), or compressing ellipses from the proper “. . .” to the less-space consuming (but incorrect) “…”.
It didn’t seem to be a problem at first for me, since I still kept a long list of “things to blog about” on my office white board, and generally wrote regular long-form articles, followed by tweets to promote them. Useful synergies, as it were. Until the fateful day when I posted a tweet about something — I don’t remember exactly what it was — and I decided that my one little block of text was all I needed to say about that topic, and I erased a line from my blog white board. And then another intended blog post was boiled down to 140 characters and erased. And then another. And then another.
And all of a sudden, I find that I’m not really much a blogger anymore, am I? While I used to launch three or four long and thoughtful posts a week into the blogosphere for my readers’ bemusement, I now just toss a dozen or so tweets into the air up there, where they spin briefly, and then vanish, never to be seen again — unlike the vast archive of blog posts here dating back to the earliest days of the internet, all of them easily searched, accessed and referenced when needed, by myself and others.
I have a sense that this is not a good thing, though I know that I am just as unlikely to go back to regular long form blogging now as I am to go back to listening to vinyl albums, hipsters be damned. And safe in that knowledge, for now, I am content to tweet regularly, write here on the blog occasionally, and listen to songs with no sleeves, stored on a computer, carried about on a pod — until such time as the Gods of Technology move their hands across the waters again, and I have to buy King Crimson’s Larks Tongue In Aspic for the eighth time, and learn to compose 30-character Queeflets by blinking my eyes rapidly in front of my KinphablaPad Nanodroid.
Oh, brave new world, that has such sparrows in it!
Tweet! Tweet tweet, I say! Tweet!