Twitter and Facebook
Twitter and Facebook are part of my “rotation.” When I take a break from work, I go to each to see what’s up. It’s a habit, like checking email was a decade ago. I check even though there’s usually not much there of interest.
I don’t have any early-days memories of Facebook, because I wasn’t part of its early adopter crowd. But I was there for the beginning of Twitter. And I remember what an eye-opening experience it was. All of a sudden the lives of the people I related to on the web were opening up to me. I could see where people go, even learn about their families. But then the experience got diluted, as I followed more people, and more people, strangers, talked to me as I tweeted. The experience re-formed into a sort of social media haze, people promoting this and that. Although we don’t call it spam, that’s really what most of what’s on Twitter is.
I tried Napster in the winter of 2000, found nothing there of interest, but I was looking for a specific song on June 18. Father and Son, by Cat Stevens. (It was Father’s Day.) I had just heard it on the radio, and wanted to hear it again. Back then, if you can believe it, this was a problem. Unless I had a song in my personal collection of CDs I had bought at a record store, the best I could do was wait until it came on the radio again. Then I had a thought — maybe it’s on Napster. It was. That, and everything else. In the period between my first and second visits, the system had boomed with people of my age, and now our music was there too. It was an amazing experience to be able to browse old tunes the way I browsed the web. I wrote about it, a lot. The experience of music had been transformed. People were talking about music in the supermarket and airports! This was new.
Father and Son still reaches inside me to find the confusion that reigned between my father and myself when I was younger. I’m 58 now, but the Dave-of-17 is still very much alive inside, and is moved by that song. “From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.” That’s the power of a new medium, in this case, Napster.
Now it may be Secret’s turn. True, there’s no API, and no web client. It’s not politically correct. It’s possible that there can’t be an API for a service that tries to deliver anonymity. I don’t know. All that said, I’m having the kind of experience with it that I had in the early days of Napster and Twitter. I’m learning things, meeting people and hearing things from them they could never say if we knew who they are. Sure there’s a lot of the first time thrills that come from saying nasty shit about people we all know. I’ve even read nasty shit about me. Big deal. The first time people used SimCity they destroyed the built-in cities. That’s fun for an hour or so, then you try building a city, and that was fun (for me at least) for years.
Secret is not in my rotation yet, I have to remember to check it. But when I do, it gives me lots to ponder, makes me want to ask questions, and gets me thinking about who else is in this world, and how different some of them are from me. Sure the stories are probably mostly fiction, but this is what people dream about — their fantasies. Who they would like to be. They do something no one can afford to do on their blog or on Twitter or Facebook, they show vulnerability. And that’s interesting, and in Internet communities, new.
PS: There are cats all over this piece. The logo of both Secret and Napster are cats. And Cat Stevens wrote the song that got me into Napster.