September 03, 2008

The Decline and... Recline... of Internet Communication

Remember ICQ?  Remember that familiar faux-typewriter sound and "oh-oh" that accompanied a message from a friend?  And the knocking sound.

And remember the early days of email?  (Actually I don't... not entirely anyway... I think I came of internet-age around the time of mid-ICQ-ness, but I'm sure James knows what I'm referring to.)

Even the earlier Hotmails (pre-Microsoft ownership days) when all you could send was text... yeah... those times.

I've been trying to understand why a service like Twitter has become so ridiculously popular, and then it hit me.  Twitter is popular for the same reasons that ICQ, Email and now text messages are popular.

It's fuckin' simplicity, wrapped in simple carry-through.

Email was great back when you wanted to quickly send a thought or message to someone without breaking out the stamps and envelopes.  And then ICQ/im's were great when you wanted to send that thought or message without having to log into a client like Hotmail or Rocketmail and fire off a one-line reply.

And text messaging is popular because when you need to quickly say, "I'm at the Library" (yeah right, who in the youth arena goes there, or knows what one is), you don't have to call someone and waste a minute's worth of your month's allotment on a three-second conversation.

Every few years, another idea comes along and basically puts forth what we wanted and expected from each one of these things.  Email, then to ICQ, then to text messages, and now to Twitter.

Of course, like with every other product, someone will come along and fuck with it and make it complex.  HTML stationary in Email, Flash and Animated Emoticons (James, that should be on your list of TIFH) for ICQ/im, and picture SMS for textin'.  Even now, people are modding Twitter to add some of that functionality... though granted they are doing it via hacks to the process, as opposed to those at Twitter offering it themselves.

Honestly, I don't know what exactly was my point on this.  And one could make the argument (possibly rightly so) that instant and hyper-quick communication is killing socialness and interpersonal skillsets of the future generation.  But there is something to be asked about why Twitter is popular.

Fuck, I have it.  And yes, I even like it.  It does remind me of ICQ and Email the way it used to be.  (In reference to ICQ, it even has that mildly amusing, mildly annoying sound that accompanies messages.)

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