Social apps and the attention factor

I was thinking about Twitter and the periodic outages of the past day or so, and came across MG Siegler’s post at ParisLemon (on FriendFeed, not Twitter) and started nodding my head as I was reading it. I couldn’t figure out yesterday whether Twitter was broken, or whether people were just not Twittering as much. I was at a baseball game at the Skydome in Toronto, so I wasn’t checking or posting a lot — and as MG notes, the weather was pretty nice in a lot of places (including Toronto) and it was a weekend, so I thought maybe other people had better things to do as well.

There’s nothing wrong with that, obviously. Getting away — or “off the grid,” as my hyper-connected friends like to say — is a good thing. And spending time outside with friends and family is also good. But I still felt a strange kind of disconnected feeling yesterday, when I checked Twitter and didn’t see anything but the occasional message. Where was everyone? What were they doing? I don’t want anyone to think I have a Twitter addiction — I was perfectly fine with it. But it still felt, well… weird.

I guess that’s the thing with social apps like Twitter. They connect you to a large group of people, and allow you to stay in touch with them in some minimal way (ironically, I had a long conversation with someone yesterday about the benefits of these kinds of “weak ties”). But when it isn’t working properly, you feel — out of touch. And in this case, it wasn’t by choice but a result of some external event. As ParisLemon notes, it was also hard to tell whether it was Twitter’s fault, because intermittent messages were coming through. Damn you, Twitter. More info here.

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