What’s the deal with Twitter and Facebook and …?

How many times have you heard that question?  These days it seems that Twitter and Facebook are everywhere: they appear on the cover of national magazines, get press coverage on the national news, and seem to be mentioned by anyone who wants to appear like they are up on new trends.

So what’s it all about?  Are these websites going to destroy the news business?  If you don’t use them, will you become totally irrelevant.  It’s a complicated issue, but of course the answers are no and no.  What tends to get people in trouble is extreme positions one way or another.

On one side you have the “believers” who speak to the strengths of a new technology and proclaim it will change everything and all who do not follow will slowly (or quickly) fall behind.  These are the folks who find the new tool an indispensable part of their day and don’t understand why other’s “don’t get it”.

On the other side, you have those who claim that these new technologies are a waste of time, an invasion of privacy, and don’t provide any new useful information.  These are the “non-understanders” — the folks who equate their lack of understanding of a technology with its lack of utility (the same crowd that tends to criticize events or programs they also never watch or attend).

Somewhere in the middle lies the best path – an appreciation for what the technology brings to the table and how it fits in with other technologies.  For example, Facebook provides a nice mechanism to stay in touch and share photos and stories with your friends (most of those relationships exist outside the Internet too!).  Twitter provides a nice mechanism to follow lots of information at once, from many sources, including people you don’t know but have interesting things to say.  Is someone annoying you with constant updates of their sleep and dietary habits — just unfollow them…its one click away.  But maybe someone is providing insight into a topic you are interested in — follow them.

So don’t blindly follow the herd when it comes to technology proclamations.  Examine each technology for what it can bring to your life.  If it doesn’t bring utility, don’t use it, but don’t condemn it.  And if it brings utility, then use it, and point its uses out to your friends.