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  1. Wealth
March 31, 2010

Too Many Opinions, Too Few Words

By Spear's

I’ve always been a bit of a geek.

I’ve always been a bit of a geek, and in time my unease has become a bit of a badge of honour, a sign of my independent mind and spirit. So I always told myself, anyway. But now I think it’s perhaps just emblematic of my age or laziness.

A new era is afoot: an era of unbridled psychological exhibitionism… and I have been left behind. When I was twenty-two, my other half used to say, “Everyone has a story to tell and everyone wants to tell it,” but he could never have imagined the advent of modern technology that has enabled such incessant chatter.

Yes, yes I know: everyone’s been blogging for years. And blogs are now oft quoted sources even in the main media, with troubling consequences as I pointed out in my previous posting on the Bruni-Sarkozy marriage. But now even blogs are passé, made so by Facebook and Twitter. 

Only a couple of weeks ago CNN reported that for the first time Facebook users exceeded those of Google… Google — the world’s most popular search engine. And tonight Twitter was so overloaded with tweets, the site crashed. What this means is that people are now turning to their friends and acquaintances for what they should know, what they should care about, rather than searching it out for themselves. 

These updates and opinion-shaping posts come in two forms: either re-tweets or links to other websites, or mini-postings of 140 characters or fewer, as is the limit in Twitter or less than the norm on Facebook. Twitter and Facebook have indeed been responsible for the decline of blogging. What’s left to say when you’ve already had a running stream of consciousness going for 16 of the past 24 hours? Who’s got the time for careful reflection, insightful analysis and cogent composition? They’re all quaint hangovers from a bygone era, it seems.

And although I have my own Facebook and Twitter accounts, I’m not particularly good at either — especially Twitter. Whatever I have to say, never seems to fit in 140 characters. So I only use it to link to my or another blog or story. I still feel rather silly broadcasting into a void that my little dog is enjoying a sunny day in Central Park or I just enjoyed a great pizza. Who cares? I barely do, and it’s my life, so how could I expect anyone else to care? And yet so many people do care about such banal pronouncements by a vast swarm of strangers, that they’re causing website meltdowns!

But this is not the end of blogging. Not yet. Not ever. For as I was telling a magazine editor only yesterday, what the world needs now more than ever is thoughtful opinion and analysis. News are fine and well and necessary, but with an inundation of sources and people losing the habit to think for themselves or indeed even distinguish the vital from the trivial, they will increasingly (and always) turn to those they can rely on to be intelligent and analytical.

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On my bookshelf sit volumes one through three of Michel de Montaigne’s “Essais,” arguably the world’s first example of blogging: writing little witty pieces of opinion and careful analysis on a vast array of subjects that varied on a nearly daily basis, entirely unsolicited, to a vast and unknown audience. He was 400 years ahead of his time. Montaigne would’ve been a natural blogger, though a terrible Facebook friend or Tweeter: too many words. Nietzsche, on the other hand, would’ve been a hit with his aphorisms. Now if we could only have him online, I might retract everything I just wrote.

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