I hope that I have a few more years left before I come to die, but I have gotten incalculable pleasure from not owning a cellphone, even if I never did make it, as Thoreau did, to the woods. But in a few weeks, I will buy a phone. I am scared. I am afraid of losing a small part of my identity, goodbye to No-Phone Gary, cousin to Dial-Up Dave, wherever you are. I’m afraid of becoming rude, of placing my phone faceup on a restaurant table, or playing "Words with Friends" at a funeral because the deceased did, after all, like words and have friends.What I’m most afraid of, though, is becoming a tool of my tool, of having one less weapon in the never-ending battle to protect—to paraphrase Saul Bellow, another hero—the territory of my consciousness. I have intentions to be a different kind of smartphone user. I’ll use it only when I travel. At home, I’ll stow it far away from me, in a terrarium, with a snake. I’ll never text.
Q: Let’s jump right in. How do you do business in 2013?
A: As crazy as it might sound, I run my entire business off of my iPhone, meaning that my audience can reach me directly by e-mail, text, and phone. I believe that that level of direct interaction is far more valuable than interaction on what I consider to be passive social-media channels like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Q: When did you come to that realization?
A: Two months ago.
Q: So, up until two months ago, you believed in the power of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to reach your fans?
A: Up until two months ago, I did not believe in them. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted from any of them. I was looking at my numbers. I had 550,000 Twitter followers and eight retweets. Or if I had something pseudo profound to say, a hundred-plus retweets. And I’m like, There’s no way that this is engaging. There’s no way that this is effective. There’s no way that this is a good use of my time. It was valuable to Twitter.
Maybe it was a bad angle. Maybe I didn’t get his good side. Maybe he just didn’t have that surfer vibe. Whatever it was, the photo wasn’t all that cool. Given time to reflect (even the few days I used to get between my own childhood birthdays and my mom picking up a set of 4×6 prints at the local pharmacy), my son probably would’ve developed a version of that day that had him riding a giant a wave, looking like a cross between Laird Hamilton and Eddie Vedder. Instead, he pretty much looked like a landlocked three year-old on a beach-bound surfboard who was suffering from a rare — but particularly punishing — bad hair day.
The instant my son looked at the image, his imagination-driven perception of himself was replaced by a digital reproduction of the moment he had just experienced. He had a few seconds, not nearly long enough, to create his own internal version of what that moment looked — and by extension felt — like.
It’s impossible to create a mental picture of a moment when a digital version of that moment is staring you in the face (and often within seconds, the Facebook too).
We found the solution for technology overload. We turned it off. Who knew that a balanced life was just a click away?
Twitter has quietly opened up its various analytics tools to the public, giving everyone access to in-depth data about the people and brands who follow them, as well as the performance of their most recent tweets.
Kids aren’t leaving social networks. They’re redefining the word “social.” Rather, they’re actually using the word with the intent of its original meaning: making contact with other human beings. Communicating. Back-and-forth, fairly immediate dialogue. Most of it digitally. But most of it with the intent of a conversation where two (or more) people are exchanging information and emotion. Not posting it. Exchanging it.
That’s “social.” That’s why they’re increasingly skipping over static, interface-based URLs and apps in order to define “social” as messaging services.
For once the kids get it, and we don’t. Hats off to you, kids. Metaphorically, not literally. Keep your hats—and all of your other clothes—on. Please. Especially if you’re thinking of using Snapchat.