Friday, February 6, 2009

An Open Letter To Claire Suddath

Apparently out of article ideas

Ms. Suddath, you wrote an article for Time called 25 Things I Didn't Want To Know About You that pokes at the recent meme on Facebook of the "25 Things About You" notes. In these notes people write 25 facts about themselves -- they can be anything, there are no guidelines other than they are be true and that they be about the person writing them. It is immensely popular, as you point out in your article. You then go on to declare it "just so stupid" and imply it is a massive waste of work hours.

I am getting a little tired of people talking about social networking as something pointless and stupid. You write for a magazine for a living or it's simply a freelance job and you got lucky with the editor. I don't know. The point is, you write. As a writer I am guessing you either have a publicist or -- the more likely scenario -- you have a network of people you can contact and who contact you regarding openings and needed articles in magazines and papers. Apparently you also don't use these networks for anything other than strict business.

Facebook is a social networking site, not a business network. It is not designed to create business contacts or keep people in a professional atmosphere on the net. Despite how many companies defer to Facebook profiles for applicants, that is not it's purpose. It is a social networking site and it exists because it is fun. That is why it is so popular. That is why it has 150 million participants and why so many of them choose to write 25 random things about themselves: it's fun.

You end your article with a rather poignant statement about how you think Twitter is similarly stupid. Recent Newbery Award winning author Neil Gaiman would most likely disagree with you on that although I believe his class and tact would keep him from making any comments directly.

Your article appeared on the front page of at the same time as an articled titled Confessions of a 40-something Woman, by Lisa Kogan, that states:
I like being unreachable once in a while, and in those days it was no big deal if somebody couldn't track you down for half an hour. You see, in the 1980s, we didn't know from e-mail or cell phones or Facebook or GPS, and a BlackBerry was nothing more complicated than a healthy treat that was high in antioxidants -- only guess what? Nobody had ever heard of antioxidants.
It then goes on and gets more nostalgic about the "good old days." While Ms. Kogan goes on to say she misses those days but is happy she's not young anymore, both of you have a similar tone: you both think that what people have today is unnecessary and intrusive. I would put my next paycheck on the line (yes, I do work a 40-hour, 8-5 job) in betting that when you were in your 20's and you were talking to friends on the phone or watching TV, your parents -- or perhaps grandparents; I don't know how old your parents were when they sired you -- were thinking about how unnecessary it was and how in their day they had to listen to the radio and imagine the stories, and write a letter or go to the person's house in order to talk to them! Phones and televisions, what nonsense in the young people's lives.

Things come full circle. What is now a daily part of our everyday lives -- Facebook, blogs, Twitter, text messaging/e-mail on our iPhones and Blackberries -- seems excessive, stupid, invasive, and I'd bet scary to you. It's not something you grew up with and you are not comfortable with it. Children are adept at learning and understanding new things; to them most of the world is new and they crave to understand it. As we get older we begin to feel that we know and understand the world and any new or foreign objects scare us. It is much akin to how people of a homogenous culture grow comfortable with themselves, but afraid of those of another race or tribe. Only in this case, we're talking about technological conveniences, not conquering nations. In the future the two may meet -- it should be an interesting day.

It doesn't matter if you feel that my writing 25 random facts about myself to my friends are stupid or a waste of my time. I enjoyed doing it and my friends enjoyed reading them -- they left comments telling me so. I never forced anyone to read them and I doubt anyone forced you to read them, either. Therefore I can only assertain that you read them of your own free will, just as someone who claims they think reality shows are stupid still turns on the TV to watch "Rock of Love" every week. But again, all this is moot. I am sure there are activities you participate in on a regular basis that are not entirely productive, but you do them because they are just fun to do. I took 30 minutes out of my day last week to write 25 random facts about myself because I enjoyed doing it; it was no more a waste of time than watching an episode of The Simpsons. Except this let me friends know a little bit more about me. So in that sense, it's more productive.

See, you and your (grand)parents have something in common: you both think that new, social technology in people's lives is stupid and unnecessary and in that you both miss the fun aspect. These things are not crucial to our survival; very little actually is. Don't worry though, you're not alone. The Amish and the Luddites both agree with you.

Now if you'll excuse me, I haven't updated my Twitter feed for about 12 hours.


Tim, a 24-year-old who likes his technology


--jeff * said...

excellent writing, t.

p i a c o n e c t a said...

oh, no! Times New Roman!

:D Interesting writing!


Tim said...

Actually it's Lucida Grande...

DiscoStu said...

Just because she dislikes those things doesn’t mean she’s against social media as a whole. See

I love social media, I work with it & use it for fun – I find it fascinating. But I think the "25 things…" list is annoying, and besides this I’ve so far found twitter to be overhyped and annoying. You’re debating a point that has been made by no one.

And, incidentally, whenever someone recommends I should switch to a certain beverage because "it contains anti-oxidants" part of me wants to weep for mankind & the other part wants to start selling nutrition remedies online. Sheep you are.

Tim said...

Stu -- I'm familiar with Straw Man arguments. The issue is that anyone can claim an argument is a Straw Man if they so choose and seem to be the "bigger man." The fact that you go on about anti-oxidants would allow me to call your argument a Straw Man since I never mentioned them, only quoted them in an article by another writer. They were never once mentioned by myself.

And the point of my argument was that the "25 things" list was fun to do and as such held the same level of value as Facebook itself. It's there for fun. Finding it stupid and writing about it as a massive waste of time is a rather poor excuse for an article in Time magazine. The same could easily be said for watching television; it does little for us other than provide entertainment, and my point is that that's enough.

Alisha said...

I like when people point out how everyone else is a sheep. Part of me weeps for those people, personally.


p i a c o n e c t a said...

Good! Lucida Grande!
That's grande (great... in spanish)
Thanks for gettting the sense of humor.
I love your writing style. Keep doing your blog.
Best wishes.

Lisa said...

AMEN. Claire Suddath needs to step away from the screen. Good blog.