It's OK to be circumspect about social media 'advances'
The blessings of new media are so readily accepted and embraced that anyone who tries to even tap the brakes on their advance often begins with an apology, lest they risk looking like a fuddy-duddy.Nevertheless, some fuddy-duddies are concerned or irritated enough to pick up their symbolic canes and begin swatting back. Certainly, New York Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter scandal is the latest demonstration of the potential dangers associated with modern social media adventures, following former in-state colleague Christopher Lee’s shirtless exercise in online dating. The more interesting salvo, however, came from outgoing New York Times editor Bill Keller, who had the temerity to suggest we at least consider the price of innovation “before we succumb to digital idolatry.” As a test case, he chose Twitter — “the enemy of contemplation,” he wrote, which can stunt opinions and make “some smart people sound stupid.” Based on the reaction in certain quarters, one might think Keller advocated everyone relocate to an Amish community. Still, Keller isn’t alone. Recently, a TV executive tweeted (note the irony) in regard to coverage of the NBA Finals, “I know I sound like my dad, but do we really need to interview coaches during the game? A championship game?” Yes, God forbid any baby boomer should sound like our dads, who weren’t facile enough with their thumbs to send BlackBerry messages while diapering us. The nagging fear of looking like an old crank, though — or worse, tragically unhip — means a lot of lousy things go uncriticized. So at the risk of being branded a fuddy-duddy, here are a few recent modern trends that really bug me: Tweeting reviews. Now that the networks have sent out their pilots for fall, it’s increasingly common for journalists to tweet instant knee-jerk reactions. Tweeting reviews thus becomes another form of oversharing — like people who can’t resist telling the world they just had a particularly good hamburger — that deserves its own name: Twitterrea. Frankly, it really shouldn’t be possible to offer particularly enlightening or insightful analysis in 140 characters (that clause alone was 114), or express a fully formed opinion about which anybody ought to give a damn. And the rest of the critical/journalistic community can happily survive without knowing at this stage whether their brethren find CBS’ “2 Broke Girls” to be really funny or too “sitcom-y.” Not surprisingly, sources at various networks are becoming irritated by the practice, though so far there hasn’t been much retaliation for violating those little “not for review” labels affixed to pilot mailings, asking critics to refrain from public comment at least until the networks have given up trying to recast them. That could change, however, as evidenced when AMC stopped circulating advance “Mad Men” screeners after a New York Times review didn’t bother to provide a “spoiler” warning. TV anchors dressed like Kardashian wannabes. Yes, it’s fine to demonstrate that you’re young and look good in flattering outfits, but it’s possible to accentuate one’s assets and still convey a modicum of professionalism and credibility. As it stands, watching local news in L.A. much of the talent looks as if it’s heading to — or just getting in from — a raucous night of clubbing. “Wired” sports huddles and midgame interviews. This would be less objectionable if the coaches or players ever actually said something noteworthy. Mostly, though, it’s another one of those “we eavesdrop because we can” flourishes, without adding any value to the coverage. Emails offering “expert” interviews. Publicists now bombard media with unsolicited pitches for experts, and it’s remarkable how regularly that works in getting their clients quoted somewhere, thanks to the inexorable demand for talking heads. Hiring a publicist for this purpose doesn’t make you look like an expert, though; more like desperate and whorish. Any fuddy-duddy reading this (especially in, gasp, print) probably has pet peeves along similar lines. Yet if there’s a common thread here, it’s that just because something is old-fashioned doesn’t mean it’s automatically a bad idea — sort of like drinking at lunch, “Mad Men” style. In fact, unless I stop regularly monitoring Twitter, watching TV or reading email, self-medicating seems a perfectly rationale response to a world at times spiraling into digital daftness.