I am an ironic dinosaur, career-wise. I began my writing on the Internet when I discovered, quite by happy accident, that some kind souls would actually pay me to do what I would happily have done for free at the time.
In the early days of the Internet, public “message boards” allowed anyone with dial-up Internet and free time to sign up and post little messages back and forth on a variety of mundane topics.
Always interested in making a living while sitting down, I was an early adapter of the mom.com wave. I tucked a baby on my lap and sat down to share my wit (some) and wisdom (none) with the world. I was writing about nothing (you would later know this as blogging) long before blogging was cool.
So prolific was my lust for publication at any (read “no”) price, that in the early days my most lucrative pay often centered on coffee mugs, mouse pads (remember those?) and coffee shop gift certificates (good only in Seattle).
Still, from those early Internet ramblings I was able to build enough of a following to convince an editor to give me space in print. On actual paper. Heady stuff.
Times have changed
The Internet, back then, was still the red-headed stepchild of publishing. A nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want your career to live there. Print media was the ultimate goal.
Today, venerable publications with hundred plus year histories are packing up the presses and moving to online editions — if at all. A stake is being driven through the heart of our august print heritage.
Driven by online content, instantaneous updates, Twitter, blogs, and social networking. Social networking Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace help people connect with others just like themselves, build online profiles and share media such as photos, music and videos.
It is also where someone you once threw up on in third grade can come and share that little nugget of information with the world. Oh yay.
The newest craze is Twitter. Twitter is a social networking site allowing you to leave short 140 character messages (called “tweets”) that other people can read, respond to, or forward.
You can “tweet” with family and friends or search for strangers that look interesting and follow them. It’s like 15 seconds of fame over and over and over again.
I will be the first to confess that cultivating an online presence can be addicting. You are the master of your universe. It starts out innocently enough. You get yourself a little web-based public diary (called a blog) so you can toss out little tidbits and anecdotes with the grandparents and a few far-flung friends.
Eventually, someone insists that you simply must join one of the social sites in order to keep abreast of all the friends just dying to know what you are up to these days and — more importantly — what you had for lunch.
Eventually, your list of “friends” is as long — or longer — online as it is in real life. Some folks keep their online “friends” to people who they know or have known in real life.
Others, apparently, collect online “friends” with the same passion formerly reserved for collecting stamps — or Pokemon trading cards.
Perhaps some of my Internet brethren are wildly popular, but I myself am skeptical of anyone listing more than 20,000 “friends.” It’s the friends I can call at midnight that really matter if you ask me.
What I do know is that I am a thoroughly modern online, digital girl. I Tweet, therefore I am! Yet, I am also sad to see so many forms of print media — magazines, newspapers falling by the wayside even as I am forced to admit that I am part of the problem — and, one hopes, solution.
Journalism used to be a highly-respected occupation. Now, purely journalistic publications are fading and being replaced by blogs. Not that there is anything wrong with blogs, of course.
It’s just that saying, “I’m a reporter” or “I’m a writer” still carries a lot more weight than saying, “I’m a blogger.”
It was once said (sung?) that video killed the radio star. Today, I fear that digital is aiming to erase print media from our lives. Just remember, like so many things in life, you really don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
All the love of great reading aside, for all the love of the digital age, online editions are of no use whatsoever when adding a clipping about your “glory days” to a scrapbook.
You can’t grab a wireless connection and get to work cleaning windows. And have you tried to make a paper mache pinata out of a screen-shot of Facebook? Impossible!
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt enjoys holding printed pages in her hands. She welcomes comment c/o firstname.lastname@example.org; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or http://kymberly.typepad.com/life.)
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