Twitter passed the 5 billion tweet milestone earlier this week – while this might seem to be a statistic worthy of being praised, it is symptomatic of a more alarming issue – namely the impending demise of thorough, insightful news reporting and the shift in our processing from few, comprehensive news reports to infinite, bite-sized ones.
One merely has to look at declining subscriptions to most newspapers to recognize that news delivery has changed – the desire to get near real-time updates has sacrificed the proper digestion of an event before it is reported.
Don’t call me a Luddite – there is no doubt that for certain newsworthy events, tweets are the best way to get critical information out to the world (e.g. the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks).
However, there needs to be a healthy balance between brief real-time reporting when an event is taking place and the in-depth analysis that can occur thereafter – this latter analysis does not lend itself well to the online media choices we currently have. How often have you been able to read through multiple articles on a newspaper’s online site without being distracted or redirected to a different link or topic?
Thankfully, this issue does not (yet) seem to impact popular fiction or non-fiction writing. There is something that likely appeals to the traditionalist in most of us of being able to dog-ear, mark-up or bend the spine of a good book – this is something that even the most user-friendly of electronic book readers is unable to simulate.
Like Cypher in The Matrix, seeing “reality” through the rapidly falling green-screen symbols, we are approaching a time when we may have bio-mechanical RSS feeds for news. Sorry Morpheus, I’ll take the BLUE pill.