How Did You Meet Your Significant Other?

bloggerati, twitterati by @mary_cross

There are more than half a billion Facebook users, but

“In fact, Facebook is the most hated site on the web, ahead even of airlines, cable companies, and the IRS.”
” recent poll showed that 31 percent of single Americans online even said they thought the Internet could take the place of a significant other.”

Bloggerati cover Those are just two of a zillion facts and observations in a new book, bloggerati, twitterati: How Blogs and Twitter Are Transforming Popular Culture by @Mary_Cross. Mary is emerita Professor of English at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a friend and a neighbor for 12 years in the Greenwich Village condominium where we both lived.

As Mary points out, the internet changes so quickly that any description of it can be only a snapshot of the current moment, but she has done a fine job of investigating the “digital culture we're moving into via the Internet." (I'm not saying that just because she interviewed me for the book.)

Twitter holds no interest for me which was confirmed on reading that 75 percent of tweets are posted by five percent of users and a survey found that 40 percent of tweets are “pointless babble” while another 37-plus percent are “just conversation.”

Nevertheless, Twitter is an important part of the developing digital culture and I had a good laugh when Mary quoted a British author's Twitter versions of classic literature. Two examples:

Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence: “Upper-class woman gets it on with gamekeeper.”

Ulyssess by James Joyce: “Man walks around Dublin. We follow every minute detail of his day. He's probably overtweeting.”

Mary herself took a whack at what Hamlet's famous soliloquy would look like in texting or on Twitter: “2b/or/not2b.”

Although young people (under 30) are abandoning blogs for mobile Twitter and Facebook, there were in the spring of 2011, 159 million blogs with more than 55,000 new ones created every 24 hours.

Thirty-one percent of internet users read blogs and 12 percent write them. We, elders, are under-represented in the blogosphere with only 7.1 percent of adults older than 50 blogging.

Politics is the top blog topic followed, in order, by technology, celebrity/gossip and business. No word from Mary where aging as a blog topic falls on the list but I'm pretty sure it's so near the bottom no one has bothered to quantify it.

Here at TGB, we often speak of community and that's just about my favorite part of writing this blog – your comments and conversation. Mary notes:

”...blogs create their own community of readers, large and small...The back-and-forth of blog commentary is one of its biggest attractions as people make an end run around established authority and sound off at will. No wonder the blog is the new public square.” [emphasis added]

I've been saying that all along. Check out the “Liberty Waits” image in the left sidebar here.

My favorite chapter - which could be yours too since so many of us are word mavens” - is on language in the Twitter and blog world. I learned that even though students test scores in reading and writing have been sinking for years, “students are writing more because of the Internet,” says Mary, “more than any previous generation in history.” A Stanford researcher

”...found their writing was rich and complex, adept at adjusting to different audiences, and very aware of its power to affect change.”

There may yet be hope even though, as Mary says,

”Certainly writing email comments on social media or 140-word statements on Twitter does not lend itself to intricate argument or deep thought.”

Hear, hear.

There is extensive information on the prevalence of libel, plagiarism, copyright infringement including the differences among them, and I was shocked to read this:

”...whole lead paragraphs routinely get taken out of RSS news feeds all the time, showing up on other online news sites.”

The section on digital natives (people now 30 and younger) versus digital immigrants (that's you and me and anyone older than about 45) is fascinating.

No one yet knows what changes will come as the natives grow up and take their their places of leadership in the country:

”An entire generation is now growing up in front of a browser...They have known no other and have not yet achieved the markers of adulthood – marriages, mortgages, children, and career success are still to come – or to live to a ripe old age.”

I'm sorry I won't be around to seen what they are like when they reach our ages. I'm sure it will be an entirely different world.

Mary ends bloggerati, twitterati with several pages of predictions. As a committed blogger, I like this one:

”Blogs are thriving, though personal blogs are gradually moving to social media. But social media have not killed blogging, which has become 'the center of gravity for in-depth, substantial dialogue and inquiry online,' Scott Rosenberg, cofounder of, says.”

Mary's book is available in the usual outlets.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: The Sinking of the Enterprise


The irony - it burns.

The book is only available in hardcover.

Where's my ebook version??


This is only half-joking. The book sounds interesting and I'm ready to buy, but without an ebook version available (and affordable), that's a lost sales opportunity for Mary.

I'm not surprised given that it's a Praeger publication but this world is changing *very* fast.

And @mary_cross isn't, apparently, the author's actual twitter handle?

Her credibility waxes by the moment here.

The problem with this kind of academic treatment, while perhaps interesting at one level, fails at a very fundamental requirement. By taking the "outsider looking in" perspective, the experiential understanding of the environment gets lost in the clutter. Reporting statistics without that context gives an impression that's not necessarily justified.

"Twitter holds no interest for me which was confirmed on reading that 75 percent of tweets are posted by five percent of users and a survey found that 40 percent of tweets are “pointless babble” while another 37-plus percent are “just conversation.”"

While these numbers are undoubtedly true -- the numbers aren't really so far out of range on a raw Pareto analysis -- I think that they are misleading.

The reality is that those 5% of tweeters who create 75% of tweets aren't being followed by that many people. They are, in effect, shouting in an empty field. They don't bother me one iota because I never see their tweets.

As for "pointless babble" and "just conversation" ... those are pretty loaded and highly subjective terms. Your "pointless babble" might be my "significant insight." That's the nature of the beast. (A standard I apply to this comment, btw. For some, it'll be mindless babble.)

I think I'd still like to read the book, but I'm afraid I'd look at Mary Cross as less an expert in the field than a tourist reporting about a foreign land.

And Joe Jackson pretty much sums up my opinion of tourists in "Common People."

Thanks for the head's up on this one, Ronni.

I don't tweet and have no intention of starting. I rarely look at Facebook and only keep my account open so I can draw attention to articles I find interesting.

Facebook is too time consuming and I find that an active e-mail account and the blogs I follow take up most of my day. Who has time for all of it?

Statistics change by the hour. The industry advances at a rapid pace so yesterdays facts are already passe, as Mary notes. So why bother spending time on them?

We do find our own community and gravitate to those with similar taste. So what else is new? We do that is choosing our face-to-face friends, too.

I hate Facebook. Yet I have three accounts, one real and two aliases. Why? The aliases were a whim and used to fool the family. And the family is the only reason to use Facebook. I tried to get them to use email as their chief method of communication but how can that compete? I'm now on Google Plus and attempting to lure the family over there. One out thirteen made the move. Sigh...
And yes, I tweet as well. But it's mostly retweets of someone else's wise words.
Blogs; I have at least 6, though only one is currently active. (I have to do something with the other 5!)
I'm 70.9 years old and obviously an exception to most of those figures. Not all, just most.
I have seven grandchildren, ranging in age from 29 to 8 and not one has a blog or a twitter account. Isn't that odd?
And since I'm living the life she is writing about, I probably won 't read the book.

@Nathan does a nice job is pointing out how off base the excerpts shared here are.

Unless you actively participate in twitter, you won't understand the benefits of 'ambient intimacy.' It's like when you are at a bar talking with friends, all your comments don't have to be brilliant essays.

Also, you chose who you follow, so the statistics don't mean much to me since I derive lots of value, staying in touch with people from all over the world.

I also love being able to directly connect with companies on twitter to get help. @comcastcares is a great example. Also restaurants and hotels with active accounts are valuable.

Google+ probably came out since the publication of the book.

Too bad.

That where all the conversations are happening now. Unlimited by character constraints.

And another thing. I can't believe that her twitter ID on the front cover of the book is not even hers.

Shows how much she uses it.

This is her ID:!/mrycrss

Plus, her avator on there is the default 'egg.'

And finally, her twitter profile doesn't have a link to her website or blog.

All basic things you should have on a twitter profile.

I've been vastly amused by the Twitterverse's take on Books with One Letter Missing (!/search?q=%23bookswithonelettermissing), for instance:
The Lion, the Itch, and the

We already live in a brave new world. Electronic everything is addicting. I play Scrabble with my computer and on my Kindle. How nutty is that?

I want you to know that as a "digital immigrant" I do not intend to apply for citizenship in the Nation of Twitter.

Ur crasy if u thk i wnt 2 B in there grup.

Interesting. I think blogs will survive as long as the medium is around even if it is only a cult following that sustains it.

Sounds like she captured blogging with that "public square" comment. I linked to this post in Baby Boomer's View. This might be the kind of book my readers (many of whom now exchange news with their kids through electronic texts and tweets) would enjoy. Thanks!

I use Twitter occasionally, mostly to share a political opinion or comment on an issue. I have a Facebook account but have pretty much opted out. It takes humongous amounts of time and I don't like being tracked by people who want to sell me stuff (yeah, I know--I can change my settings, but that takes still more time). I'd rather communicate by email, and I enjoy reading blogs.

I wonder if 40-50 years in the future doctors will be seeing an epidemic of deformed and arthritic thumbs among those now in their teens and 20s from all that texting--and sexting!

I got on twitter because I was working with a largish group at a largish conference and we kept coordinated through it. I occasionally use twitter to see what journalists whose work I respect are passing on. It's not a bad way to make sure I get news that will interest me, especially if I only do it sporadically. I also usually tweet my blog posts -- or they go automatically.

I hate Facebook, but I have many friends who seem to live there, so I've made my blog flow automatically to "my wall." People do seem to read it that way.

I much prefer longer form blogging to any of this other social media. I do think though that for the already literate, these short form media may enable some useful communication. Interesting idea that current young folks are writing MORE.

Next they'll do nothing but make videos and we'll lose tough altogether.

Yes, like Jan, I dislike Facebook but seem to have become a part of it anyway. First, it was to see what grandkids were doing. Now I find I'm the volunteer who posts pictures from the American Cancer Society Discovery shop special sales.

And as we elders become more computer savy, we are loosing one more thing...cursive writing. It's being replaced in schools by "keyboards."

I have to say that I love all of the different options I have now for meeting people and communicating with them. I have a long-form blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook account, and I'd like to even experiment with Google + soon. Different people (of all ages) prefer each system, and each has its own way of communicating—I write very differently in my blog and in comments from the way I write in Twitter. I enjoy it all, though.

It makes me sad that Mary's book tells us more than 37% of tweets are "just conversation"—as if there were any such thing. To me, conversation is the whole point. I'm online, in many ways, for that town-square meeting of minds.

By the way, @HollyGee, I love the Books with One Letter Missing on Twitter! Thank you for sharing that!


You write so well on many interesting subjects

Have you ever considered publishing your blog"TGB" as a print book, edited of course.

I started using Twitter only to keep tabs on my son's escapades, but I'm a sucker for links. So, little by little, I began exploring a whole subculture of geeky people (in their 20s,30s, and 40s and even older) who are figuring out how to use all of these new media to further the same values that I have --in particular gender equality. There's a world full of "geeky" females out there who are thoughtful, articulate, brazen, and intellectually courageous -- in ways and through media with which we elders are pretty much unfamiliar. I hang around the fringes and keep trying to learn from a generation with whom I can barely keep up. But I find it exhilarating. Many of these females will be conventioning in Seattle in October: The range of their programming boggles my mind. These are the elder females of the future. I'm fascinated to watch how they will develop as women in, what still is to me, a strange new world.

I any Time Goes By readers want to try out Google+, here's an invite you can use to join Google+.

I don't know who took the video of the snake on the car hood, but it was cruel. The snake is thrashing around because it is frightened. They climb on automobiles because the like to bask in the sun. The best thing to do is stop the car and let the snake escape. I hope PETA sees this video.

Book sounds interesting. I regard most statistics we encounter almost daily on every topic imaginable as interesting indicators and entertaining, but I don't take them all too seriously. Tech changes being so rapid today would make such research a challenge for any writer, so I can read this book without being super-critical.

My perspective on using computer technology since my introduction to computers and the Internet has been evolving, especially once I moved past an initially somewhat addictive phase.

I've had no success in enticing any friends,family, or others to engage in blogging. One family member had a blog a few years ago before I started I learned, but found it too time consuming -- recently started another to which pictures are posted but of interest to only family and friends.

I started a Facebook account on a whim, but don't visit there often and seldom write on my wall, others wall, or with friends of friends. I've communicated there directly only with those I personally have known. I did have a few former college classmates make contact as a consequence which has been interesting. I don't post my blog there, since any who might care will go to my blog, and I don't want to be overbearing about it.

I text, sometimes somewhat like twitter with the 140 characters for fun. I'm aware of situations in which twittering might be interesting, but my life activities don't lend themselves to that and have no one who also twitters.

I'll likely move along to iPhone or Android, an iPad -- wonder what's next?

I was considering Google+ but I'm reluctant to adopt anything that's hard to get out of, or reverse easily. I read in Sun. L.A.Times an article that if I changed my mind to delete my account that not only would I "...lose access to Google+, but you will also lose access to all Google products including your Gmail email address."

Saw an interview with driver of the snake car. He said the reason he didn't pull over was that he was on a freeway and thought the traffic too dangerous to park on side of road. I'm sympathetic to the snake, but I agree with driver. I live in the fwy capitol (L.A.) -- too many drivers/passengers, law enforcement officers and workers are killed who've been parked due to an emergency, or working on side of fwy. I'd do everything possible, including driving on a flat tire to get to the next exit, before I'd park in fwy emergency lane.

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