Why I Don't Blog, Tweet, or Facebook

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By Edward Goldstick

Greetings.  I begin this experience with some trepidation, to be honest; as our host indicated last night, I have been writing to Jim Fallows for a number of years and have appreciated his published works and perspective for many more than that (though with a huge hiatus from the late '80s to the early '00s).  I've felt lucky over the past decade when my "dispatches" (his term) evoked a kind nod of agreement or a curt chiding but have been challenged by his repeated insistence that I should "Start a Blog", an endeavor that I have not embraced even if I actually attempted it (though anonymously and about a specific controversy).

So when he made the overture that led me to this early morning visit to the keyboard (it's about 4 am, but that's when I often start my day), I thought hard about it for about a day and then sent him a "thumbs up" and was committed.  I have serious doubts that I can do justice to the space and time available whether it comes to the form or the content of my scribblings, but here goes nothin'.

It seemed appropriate to begin with a short exposition of why I currently don't blog or, for that matter, use Twitter, Facebook, or really any other text-based media other than email to communicate concretely with others.  I have some personal reasons for this, the main one being that I am afraid that I might allow my impulsiveness get the better of me by posting something spontaneously that I might regret even if it's both something that is both objectively defensible and subjectively accurate.

But the real reason I've demurred is that I simply think that there are already too many clear voices, too much "noise", and too little enduring discrimination (in the technical sense) that separates the wheat from the distracting chaff of personal, ideological, and commercial messaging.    If I learn something from reading or experience or have a longer "inspiration" that I'd like to share with others, my first instinct is to want to share it with specific people on a one-to-one basis.  Over the years, I written many letters and even more emails to authors, public officials, and other "strangers" as well as to friends and colleagues to express either dismay or satisfaction with something they've done or said or about something that I'd like to bring to their attention but it's always been with a specific intent and with little or no expectation of a response.

Which brings me to the third reason I don't blog, "tweet", or use Facebook:  I'm a bit afraid of getting too wrapped up in the constant churning of my own thoughts and the thoughts of others... not to mention the feedback dynamics of point/counterpoint.  I've been online since The Beginning of Internet Time (and may talk about that later in the week, too), but I quickly discovered that I needed to trim the number of sites followed down to a manageable few... and that the constant flow of news from multiple RSS feeds was an indigestible... so I narrowed it down to a few specifics writers and news sources, both specialized and generalist.  I really enjoy reading, but non-fiction in book form (without an "e", for now) is more to my liking (and I will almost certainly describe some of my preferred discoveries from recent years).

Finally, about my approach to this exercise:  I started with a long list of ideas and have yet to narrow it down, but I'm not going to follow a fixed plan or attempt to formulate a specific message or tell an elaborated story (and to be frank with you all, I don't think I can hold water with the previous guests whom you've been reading here, some of whom are established thinkers with whom I was already familiar and who I respect very much).   I intend to offer ideas from that list and from events as they transpire; for example, I'm still trying to sort through the actual impact of the young Egyptian Google executive I saw on "60 Minutes" last night (and of "social networking", in general, on the events that we've watched unfold)... and I will almost certainly offer a view of  "The Jeopardy/IBM Challenge" later tonight and into the week.  I may stick to the more geekish/nerdy/technological subjects that Jim suggested have been, perhaps, the more interesting aspect of whatever I've thrown his way... but I've written to him about anything and everything over the years and he was not restrictive in that regard, so I may well veer into other territories.

In the end, I hope I can do justice to this unusual opportunity and, as such, absolve Jim and TAO* of any responsibility if I err or disappoint or anger anyone.  I will do my best and will follow the Fallows-ian practice of reading any reactions, if any, might be offered to share the best (and worst?) with you as well.

But now, it's time to get on with the day.

SA et A+

* No pun intended: it's just my shorthand for The Atlantic Online... but I must state that The Atlantic Monthly ("TAM") certainly has shined, more often than not, through the clouds of contemporary American journalism (IMHO).

Edward Goldstick is a veteran of the high-tech, software, defense, and energy-technology worlds in the US and France.

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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