Why Do We Celebrate The 'Solitary' Experience Of Books But Decry The Social Experience Of Online Social Media?

from the newness-vs.-oldness dept

We already wrote making people more lonely, but that same piece made Mathew Ingram go on a bit of rant on Twitter raising a good point. He noted that the same folks who decry social media for making people lonely often celebrate the importance of the solitary experience of reading books. He finds it odd that the solitary experience of reading books is seen as sacrosanct and notes that both experiences can be used to “escape from the real world.” So why is one considered bad and one considered an important cultural point?

I’d guess part of it is simply generational. As Douglas Adams has stated (I’m paraphrasing slightly), every tech around by the time you’re born is “normal,” new technology that is invented before you’re thirty is cool and new and anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is “against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it.” It seems there’s definitely an element of that happening here. Also, there’s some view that talking to friends is just idle chatter… whereas reading a book is a “serious” thing from which you might learn. Of course, the fact that the most popular books are probably just as insight free as many online conversations is ignored. It’s not like everyone reading books is digging into a meaty exploration of ways to solve all the world’s problems. Either way, Mathew raises a good point. I’d be curious if someone can defend the importance of books while also defending the claim that social networking is useless without being self-contradictory.

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Comments on “Why Do We Celebrate The 'Solitary' Experience Of Books But Decry The Social Experience Of Online Social Media?”

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Anonymous Coward says:


It does seem that just having to do with the internet somehow diminishes things that happen in other ways. Which strikes me as silly, since I view internet communication as a more interactive version of the telephone or just having a conversation in a restaurant or other public space where you can be easily overheard or observed, or a meeting of more than 2 people, TV or radio broadcast to millions…it’s really no different.

I find it weirder in reverse: I watch an old cop drama TV show or movie, for example, and wonder how they got anything done with such limited or time-consuming ways of communicating.

But then I remember having to get up off the couch to change the TV channel and dropping film off to be processed and reel to reel tapes for recording. 😉

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

because the intelligence level of books can pretty much always be appropriate to the person, social networking however almost always devolves into the lowest common denominator which is almost universally “idiot people doing idiot things”

sure there are exceptions but even there, you pick up a stupid book, you can stop reading it. you cant always just stop the tide of stupid tweets and at some level you just either have to put up with the stupidity or not use it at all.

Overcast (profile) says:

So why is one considered bad and one considered an important cultural point?

Same reason a game like ‘Grand Theft Auto’ is looked at as ‘horrible child corrupting evil’ – but movies like Saw and Debbie Does Dallas are just joked about.

Typical double standards.

Of course, that being said, I do find most social media pretty mindless – like TV. I’m more of the reading/gaming type.. 🙂

Cerberus (profile) says:

A good book is something that someone took a year to deliberate on, erase and rewrite, and research for. It is a work of art, and in no way comparable to a discussion on Facebook or a newspaper article. So saying that one is good while the other is good is utterly silly. Each fulfils its own function. It is like comparing singing in the shower to the Wiener Philharmoniker: both are fine and should not be confused.

stadsjaap (profile) says:

not a chance

any argument to the contrary would have to be based on two presuppositions:
ii) that contact via social media has the same effect on loneliness as no contact at all; and
(ii) that time spent on social platforms equals time taken away from contact in vivo.
i find both exceedingly unlikely.
in fact, the challenge is pretty much impossible in the way that it is phrased. far from being “useless”, social networks clearly have some utility. this, to me at least, is self-evidently true.
– i would argue that books have a higher value because the data in them are organized by the writers and editors, thus saving the reader-browser the time of having to organize it themselves.
– i would argue that they have a higher potential for imparting information at a greater level of depth. (this is why you don’t see study materials on social media platforms.)
– i could even argue that they add better conversation value to a coffee shop conversation if you ever get out enough to have one.
but are books any sort of substitute for facebook if you’re tom hanks in “castaway”?
not a chance.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

I'll give it a go

A book is, in general, something that has had to survive enough challenges to its worth to make someone think it would be worth a few bucks to read. The author put a lot of time and effort into writing it and the editor spent plenty of their own time doing quality control on it.

Social media, on the other hand, is essentially a million monkeys banging on keyboards. Huge areas of it are nothing but the mental diarrhea of its users. There is no barrier to entry and no quality control of any kind. Yes, you’ll find a few gems in social media but they’re buried in a mountain of shit.

Competition is the difference. There is no competition in social media because there is no barrier to entry and no expected return. There are no consequences to publishing a mountain of garbage. Competition creates better products because the ones that lose die.

It’s like the old saying: If everyone is special, then no one is.

P.S. Please, no comments citing specific examples; this is a macro principle and I’m well aware that both systems have their exceptions.

Anonymous Coward says:

I'll give it a go

I am sorry, but I do feel the need to comment about examples. You make the assumption that the vast body of literature is being read for the purposes of learning, but this seems to not be the case. Otherwise our top sellers would not be works of fiction. On the other hand, you make the broad assumption that most of Facebook and other social media is just for spewing about the newest lolcat poster or fast food menu item. And yet I find that my conversations on social media tend more towards philosophy and politics. Sure, I get the odd picture or friendly comment about someone’s day, but they hardly qualify as ‘mental diarrhea.’

Andreas (profile) says:

why the wonder? it’s only consistent: they don’t want to socialize on the internet and they don’t want to socialize outside the internet.

a recent article showed, that the more you socialize outside the internet, the more active you are on the internet as well. in the offline world, over hundreds of years “reading a lot of books” became a synonym for “being intelligent”, thus hiding the fact, that avid readers often are socially challenged. now those people who are socially challenged on the internet are frustrated because there’s no positive analogy for avoiding social media – you don’t have that aura of great wisdom and vast knowledge, rather you are completely ignored. the logical reaction is, to despise social media usage and to glorify solitarism.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

I'll give it a go

I actually just meant they would be, on average, better quality be it fiction or non.

As for politics and philosophy, we’re doing that right now. Neither of us are experts and neither of us has anyone double checking for quality or content. What we produced would be better if we did.

Don’t get me wrong. I like a good stretch at icanhascheezburger or a debate on techdirt. Both of them are of little actual value though. However amusing they might be for a moment, that’s as long as their value lasts.

stephanie heller (profile) says:

books vs social networking

i don’t remember ever reading a book with a group of people, or if i was with a girlfriend. it was never a social activity.

on the other hand, i’m sure that a person has a billion friends that they need to be with via text 24/7, but when you are with me, i try for no phones allowed. that is rude.

as far social networks make you less social, i believe that. if you are in a room of people you should be wholly with those people. if they bore you, leave and text or phone all you want.

texting while with people is like whispering.it is just bad manners. and having your phone on the table whole eating with someone or people is worse than putting your elbows on the table,,,,,rude

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:


You’ve got a bit of a problem in your argument. You’ve failed to give any reasons why book readers aren’t more intelligent or any why those who socialize more are more intelligent. Given that, your position is that social media users are content to ignore those with little social skills even though they may be more intelligent.

That’s an astoundingly foolish position to take. On behalf of myself at least, please don’t speak for me.

Andreas (profile) says:


i didn’t fail to give a reason, because i never actually said that someone who does something is more intelligent than someone else. you misinterpreted me there, i only said, that there is some perception or aura concerning certain activities, which is completely different from these activities having some actual qualities.

second, the ignorance doesn’t come from social media users chosing intently to ignore someone else, but from the sheer fact that social media users use social media and you don’t have the ability to perceive someone within social media who doesn’t use social media himself.

now you take that strawman argument to describe my position as foolish, yet it hasn’t ever been my position, but one you yourself inferred from what i have written.

try to get your argumentation straight, before replying to other commenters. http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/poster

PRMan (profile) says:

Response to: harbingerofdoom on Apr 27th, 2012 @ 9:18pm

Here’s what is even more strange. If I tell people I read Slashdot, they think I’m brainy and I get complimented on it. But if I tell those same people that I’m reading The Life of Abraham Lincoln or The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin they think I am boring and that I should be reading The Hunger Games.

This flies completely in the face of Mike’s argument.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:


You’re absolutely right. I did assume you were poorly attempting some sort of insight when all you did was say, rather verbosely, that people who don’t use social media don’t use social media. You just confused the point with a lot of irrelevant statements. My apologies.

Though, again, with insight like that, please don’t speak for me.

herodotus (profile) says:

“I’d be curious if someone can defend the importance of books while also defending the claim that social networking is useless without being self-contradictory.”


Books are important because they give you the chance to learn interesting things from people who are (or were) smarter than you, many of whom have been dead for a long time.

Social networking sites provide far fewer opportunities for this, while providing far more opportunities for reading really trivial nonsense. They also encourage people to share everything, no matter how trivial, which unsurprisingly leads to an even higher ratio of trivial nonsense than usual.

Mind you, I know that books provide opportunities to read trivial nonsense as well, but there are also things like bibliographies, reading lists, and collections like the Great Books that allow people to avoid at least some of this nonsense. So far, I know of nothing similar that exists for social networking.

Jeremy says:

I'm older, but I like social networking/media.

I dislike the notion of all social connections in the world being concentrated in one company’s hands. The power available to such a company is probably immeasurable. Facebook for instance has managed to do what the CIA would never be allowed to do on its own, but no one stops to consider the power of the information Facebook has on it’s servers.

I love the idea of facebook, I’m terribly opposed to the walled-garden-of-temptation it is to anyone with bad intentions of social manipulation. I’d prefer something more open-source with direct user control of content and links, rather than central storage.

herodotus (profile) says:

“If you acknowledge this, why ignore the fact that the internet provides opportunities to read and participate in the discussion of non trivial material as well.”

Where did you get this?

I said nothing against the internet at all. The internet is much more than social networking. For example, I spend hours and hours every week reading books on the internet.

That’s right, in addition to Facebook and Twitter and Youtube and Wikipedia there are a few other things on the internet. Such as millions of books. Pretty much the whole cultural history of humanity has been scanned and put up someplace or another. Millions of books available for free, all of which can be downloaded and read within seconds.

I have nothing against social networking either. I personally find the bit about the millions of scholarly books and works of literature and scientific classics and so on being freely and instantly available to be more interesting than Twitter, but that’s really just a personal preference.

I was simply responding to the challenge:

“I’d be curious if someone can defend the importance of books while also defending the claim that social networking is useless without being self-contradictory.”

dwg (profile) says:


I love Nabokov, and I don’t love inane Tweets like “I just ate ANOTHER bowl of cereal!”

I don’t love Jackie Collins, and I love boingboing, this blog and the Volokh Conspiracy.

And you know what? Sometimes I like Stephen King and reddit, and sometimes I can’t stand Thomas Pynchon or Don Delillo. And sometimes vice-versa.

So anyone making this a binary world where a book-reader can’t Tweet and a Tweeter can’t read books is just a grad student trying to shoehorn her thesis into the real world where, of course, one of these choices does not foreclose the other.

Andreas (profile) says:


if you think i’m complaining, i didn’t know i did. all i wanted was to try to find a possible explanation why things are as described in the article. i tried to hint at the issue of perceived qualities versus actual qualities, to add another line of thinking on this issue.

and i assume you are a busy person, if you comment on all comments that don’t speak for you, that they don’t speak for you 🙂

Al Owen says:

Gawd ...

When you’re reading, you know you’re alone.

When you’re listening to music, you know you’re alone.

When you’re watching a movie, you know you’re alone.

When you’re riding a bicycle, you know you’re alone.

When you’re taking a bath, you know you’re alone.

When you’re taking a dump, you know you’re alone.

When you’re sleeping, you know you’re alone.

When you’re masturbating, you know you’re alone.

When you’re sitting at home attempting to fulfill a craving to read something insightful and instead read yet another bit of ancient hackneyed marketing sloganeering that someone is trying to pass off as wisdom, you know you’re alone.

I could go on, but even the simple-minded should get the point by now.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Insight Free?

Of course, the fact that the most popular books are probably just as insight free as many online conversations is ignored. It’s not like everyone reading books is digging into a meaty exploration of ways to solve all the world’s problems.

Mike, I gotta take umbrage on this point. I do not disagree with your (or Ingram’s) overall argument that decrying social media is foolish. But saying that most popular books lack insight is not supportable.

The best, and usually most popular, books explore complex ideas and characters and offer all sorts of insights. Both fiction and non-fiction do this, while even at the same time entertaining us. A science fiction book involving artificial intelligence can give us insight about what makes us human and whether a machine can be sentient – something we may have to consider in the real world in the next decades. Crime dramas and murder mysteries can give insight into complex social situations or the way criminals and police think. Just because a book is popular doesn’t mean it can’t make the reader think – the best authors can even “trick” reluctant thinkers into doing so under the guise of entertainment.

Books have their place, and offer insights, just as social media has its place and can offer its own.

DC (profile) says:


When reading alone, there is no dialogue, nor any human contact. It is solitary. Please don’t try to redefine basic concepts.

You seem to be trying to defend reading books as somehow better than engaging with social media. And yet here you are, engaging with social media.

Reading a book can be an enlightening experience. It can also be very similar to eating popcorn. It all depends on the book.

Jesse Townley (profile) says:

Insight Free?

100% back this comment. I read a *lot* of trashy novels (spy thrillers and mysteries) but there’s always a ton of commentary about human interactions, human motivations, the state of society, geo-politics, you name it.

On the flip side, a buddy is currently posting about being scared of a group of loud Germans in his local cafe because “whenever a bunch of Germans start getting loud, it usually ends in an event with a “I” or a “II” at the end”- leading to comments comments from others referencing WW2.

Totally innocuous fb post from a cafe turns into a historical back & forth, sort of.

Conclusion: this whole argument is based on a false equivalency. Don’t feed into it.

DC (profile) says:

books vs social networking

Hmm… where to start …

Whispering is not always bad manners. There are plenty of times we are in a group of people but a smaller subset needs to confer semi privately. Happens all the time in business and social settings. My GF and I frequently confer quietly about when we want to leave a social gathering. You may be at the same gathering, but our decision criteria is none of your business.

I’ve read books to children. I’ve read books to girlfriends. I’ve read books before an audience. I’ve listened to books being read to an audience. These all seem like social activities to me.

If I arranged to have dinner with someone / persons, but a critical work issue is bubbling, I may keep my mobile on the table. Apologies, but not all of us work 9-5.

I think you are trying to draw a bright line rule where in reality, in social settings there are a very large range of personal interests and so levels of direct engagement.

Yes, I put my elbows on the table.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a common ancient horridly flawed assumption often afoot that if something is written in a book, it must be true or will become so. There is 0 basis for that assumption. The first book supposedly ever mass-printed was a bible. Enough said.

Books were originally designed to spread words, period. They could be fact, fiction, opinions or folklore.

Some people like the colour red. I like the colour blue. Some people like antique furniture. It makes me barf. Some people “celebrate the solitary experience of reading books”. Not me.

I celebrate the learning of facts. Many people (irrational ones, imo) despise facts, because facts can negate or at least challenge their own causes, beliefs and biases.

I will read if I think that it is the better/best route to the data that I need. If a good teacher is a better option I’ll let them teach me (but beware so-called “teachers”, the moment I detect stupidity, bias, baselessness or lies, you’re off my list). I also learn a lot by teaching myself (often called the “hard way”, but imo, often the best way).

I also challenge so-called fact in science. They’re often wrong, but at least honest science is open to new facts, even if it challenges existing beliefs (before the weaker-minded among you knee-jerk, remember that words and facts are not the same thing).

I celebrate learning facts. And I think that anyone who celebrates an institution or institutional cause (be it books, rap, religion, CD’s, cars, furniture or whatever) without being able to provide a rational reason (I consider “because that is what is done” as a massive fail in that department) to not be in control of his or her own mind.

I personally couldn’t give a damn how, or with or without whom, I get facts. I just want them.

I see no cause for celebration.

Yes I was playing word-games with the multiple meanings of the verb “to celebrate” in the previous line. Did I mention that I like to have fun, too?

proximity1 says:

Social networking is the censorious celebration and the defense of zero effort as a working principle. Too many participants in discussion fora–with few exceptions–bask in their right to be and to remain compeletly ignorant of any issue which none the less assert their right to pretend to “discuss”.

Criticism which calls for responsibilty is booed as elitist and condescending.

The merits or demerits of reading depend, of course, on what one chooses to read. And in that regard, the same ignoramauses who glory in the zero-effort zone of the on-line discussion fora stay far, far away from reading texts which make demands on them.

For me, one of the most glaring but unnoticed, unremarked aspects of the ridiculously lame replies which my own criticisms drew in the earlier referenced post— “Turkle Says Technology Is Making Us Lonelier Because We Spend Less Time Alone, Or Something”– was the way I was denounced for being condescending even as these same critics accepted uncritically the original post’s pronounced mockery and derision of Sherry Turkle’s article.

Like practically everything which critics wrote in defense of the thoughtless mocking of Turkle’s article–an article which I veiwed as much, much too mild, too timid in its presentation of the greivous social harms fostered by so much of technology which Turkle writes of (though readers’ responses showed that some simply missed the point completely!) , the asserion here that this issue is somehow one of “newness-vs.-oldness” is absurd.

Mike, you began, right out of the shoot, by mocking and ridiculing what you only too painfully obviously didn’t understand–Turkle’s points and arguments.

Now you’re back with yet more silly musings with this “Why Do We Celebrate The ‘Solitary’ Experience Of Books But Decry The Social Experience Of Online Social Media?”

The answers–as if you were really interested in finding them—presented in thorough and brilliantly presented books—which you haven’t read and won’t read. Neither you nor your cohort of sycophants would show that much initiative or effort.

Your efforts, where they count and show genuine interest, are in the careful exposition of the endless nonsense which characterizes authority’s efforts to defend and extend the reach of copyright where it makes neither sense nor benefits to do so.

But the rest of your enterprise here is devoted to the completely critical defense of technology; your site is a leading example of what has been described astutely as “techno-optimism” which to a great extent resembles in all its worst aspects religious fanaticism.

See (what interesting thinking and writing looks like):


“techno-optimism is a kind of religion”
Posted on 27 April 2012 by Freddie /



“rewriting myself”
Posted on 27 April 2012 by Freddie /


scichotic (profile) says:


Is it really that uncommon for a group of people — or even a single very opinionated person — to state that something is useless while a large group of other people have found some use for it?

This is part of human existence… it’s been going on with TV vs. books forever — I still hear far too frequently from TV haters that TV rots your brain and is worthless and how they can’t understand why anyone watches it.

I find this kind of thing amazing, actually, because those opposed evidently lack the wisdom to ask the people who watch TV or use the internet WHY they use it, and IF they’ve found some value in it.

I’m also amazed that anyone is surprised that the TV vs. books mindset has translated into Social Media vs. books.

What is it with people needing to promote their way of doing things as better than others when it comes to such pretentious shit as reading books vs. socializing?

Maybe they’re just jealous 🙂 Nothing fans the flames of indignation like not being included.

Anonymous Coward says:


Maybe, just maybe, people call your comments elitist and condescending because you write elitist and condescending comments.

This quote from your article, slightly reworked, is a perfect description of what I wanted to say after just reading the comments on the original Turkle article.
“Then today I read proximity1 writing about an examination of Turkle. He pulls a bunch of grand claims out of thin air, congratulates himself for doing so, preemptively sneers at those who would question him, and does so with stunningly little in the way of evidence. The kicker: he has no idea why he is an asshole.” Really, you spend half of the time in there refusing to actually make a point while droning on about you wouldn’t have to make a point if everyone read the same books as you and agreed with them but everyone is too stupid to read because they like the internet.

dwg (profile) says:

Gawd ...

No, dude: when you’re doing a lot of the things you mention, you’re not necessarily alone. When you’re doing them alone, then you know you’re alone. My point was that social media can give the impression that you’re not alone when, in many ways, you are–and that, generally speaking, reading books does not have the same illusionary aspect.

Like, just for example, when reading a book, you can’t lie about your height, race or location to the author or anyone around you at the moment and expect that they’ll believe you. Being able to do that, say on social media, makes you pretty much alone. I mean, unless you’re dangerously psychotic enough to believe that you’re your avatar.

Anonymous Coward says:

It seems like you are trying to compare apples and oranges.

Reading is something we do by ourselves. It’s not a social activity. It perhaps does make us better people or makes us better informed people for our next social interaction, but it is as personal and self-satisfying as any activity can be. We do it for ourselves, for our own pleasure.

Social media? That is the exact opposite. We do it for everyone else, and ourselves. Some people consider it ego masturbation, nothing more. Never before did the average person feel the need to take out a full page to tell people that they “found a parking spot” or are currently the Mayor of a coffee shop nobody else wants to go to. But there you go.

Social media is almost by definition, a shallow act.

Anonymous Coward says:



What you classify as social media?

Wikipedia is a social media.
Wikileaks is a social media.
Openstreetmaps is a social media.
Patientslikeme is a social media.

Youtbe is a social media where you can find this DEFCON 19: Build your own Synthetic Aperture Radar

Social media is not just Facebook and even inside Facebook there are groups of people dedicated to advance their own knowledge.

Social media actually makes people read more, it gets people into the habit of reading even if it is junk just like walking eventually if you want to run you will be able to do so and in the case of learning people can do it without leaving behind social media.

Anonymous Coward says:


And yet you fail to underscore any real evidence except for the assumption that others share your tastes for what you think it should be, with little to no regards to actual substance of the comments you seem unable to filter out the noise on the discourse of others making assumptions that near the comical, decrying everybody else and failing to see the real problem and that is yourself, not what others are doing it.

Social media is actually the celebration of community values, it is the reconnecting of the human race with other human beings, is the exchange of multiple experiences that when summed up amount to something, different from a book that never will be nothing but a book good or bad, a book is a frozen moment in time, social media is the thaw of times.

proximity1 says:


This is condescending and a “preemptive sneer”:

Sherry Turkle Says Technology Is Making Us Lonelier Because We Spend Less Time Alone, Or Something
from the say-what-now? dept

A decade ago psychologist Sherry Turkle was at the forefront of encouraging children to go online so they could better learn to communicate with others. Yet, somewhere over the past decade, she’s shifted almost entirely, and joined the “get off my lawn” generation. Her latest is a screed in the NY Times about how all of this social networking makes us all lonely because kids can no longer talk to humans face to face any more. At least that’s what I think she’s saying. Perhaps it would make more sense if she explained it face to face, because the arguments in the article don’t fully make sense. It talks about how the kids these days in the workplace put on headphones and work instead of talking to each other. Some might call that being focused on work rather than chit chat. And, chances are many of them are still talking to each other via instant messaging, which is often more efficient anyway.

Of course, to Turkle, that kind of communicating doesn’t count. It’s not clear why — other than it’s “different.” And therefore it’s bad. The argument isn’t particularly convincing… and it gets worse at the end. It turns out that actually communicating with people makes us more lonely. ….

( & etc.)

But apparently you don’t mind that condescension, that “preemptive sneer.”

Unlike you, I do object to it. I objected to it—by returning comments in kind, comments which others laughably denounced as condescending even as they missed or ignored the dripping condescension in Masnick’s original posting.

That it’s necessary to point out such obvious self-contradiction in your “reasoning” is precisely why, for the most part, I declined to bother even responding to similar inane drivel such as yours above.

If there were any, even the smallest, “price of entry” to participate here, you and your comments wouldn’t pass muster. But there’s no price of entry.

You’re right in your element here–a place where by majoritarian self-conceit and complacency, knowledge per se and its place and importance in public discourse (though that term is too flattering for what typically goes on in these kinds of blogs) is denigrated and sheer sublime ignorance parades itself for the spectacle of doing so.

I take it as a compliment that you call me an asshole. Your opinion is, in this particular, as, probably in general, something useful mainly as a guide to what to beware of being in agreement with or approved by. Opinions such as yours are the stuff of popular opinion polls–which come to us devoid of any indications of the respondants’ qualifications to speak knowledgably about whatever the issue of the moment might be.

When I hear that “X % of some public thinks such-and-such,” one of my first thoughts is, “Yeah, but what do those of that segment of public opinion actually know about the matter?” That’s at least as interesting as what the X % think about something.

Discussions in which it is a habit skip over and ignore any and all reference to participants’ pertinent knowledge of—or the lack of knowledge of– a topic are as interesting and as useful as knowing what some undefined class of people who know virtually nothing about “X” think about “X”.

I offered reading references for the benefit of those not familiar with those sources who are interested in following them up— as well as to give an indication of my demonstrated interest in the topic and at least some background awareness in relevant reading to others who are familiar with those sources.

The rest of the crowd–those who neither know nor care to know–aren’t worth the time or trouble for me to join in a discussion founded on their determined ignorance of and general indifference to the topic under pseudo-discussion.

But what is worth pointing out is that this medium, though it might in theory be otherwise, apparently exists first and foremost to preempt and kill any such danger of informed public discussion. It is, in other words, an integral part of that society of spectacle which exists in and for itself as a distraction from anything of real importance which otherwise might threaten occur to our public awareness.

proximity1 says:

the intelligence level of books can pretty much always be appropriate to the person

Good points.

In addition, there’s the fact that, since internet blogs are now the predominant mass-medium for casual reading–far outweighing in popular-attention and much-more-resorted-to than are printed, bound books, especially high quality books, the impact of the common inanity of the social networks is far greater than that of a particularly stupid book; this is true despite the fact that a book’s being simply lousy is usually no impediment to its doing very well in selling to the public.

Anonymous Coward says:


That you bother to answer his inane drivel betrays you, since apparently you too fall into the trap of self-contradiction.

Is very rare to capture ones own cognitive dissonance, so all your discourse about how bad it is, is just another form of drivel, driven probably by your own anger on the subject or other “bad” underlying feelings, you seem to resent people expressing themselves and many may get the feeling that if it is not done your way there possibly can’t be any other way that could possibly be correct and fair, which of course is absurd.

Your sources are not worth it and like you are the product of insane minds that couldn’t handle reality, there is no spectacle society, there is society where the underlying experiences are real as it gets, people try to pass themselves as something else being pretenders and when they can’t pretend anymore they move on, it starts at an young age, when people try to show to others how cool they are by trying to be the smartest, the strongest or anything else they can come up with, in fact the variation of responses is the strongest part of society, not the comformaty to some sort of perfect ideal, the perfect ideal is the inherent chaos that masks the rules of that system, public discourse of course reflects that and for people who believe in cleanliness it must be abhorrent.

Social media in fact may create more intellectuals or pseudo intellectuals like yourself in the future because underlying it all is the fact that it is mostly a read only medium, people need to get into the habit of reading and when they decide if ever to edify yourself to your standards they may chose to do so.

Meanwhile people may not know how to express themselves and you many not be able to understand what they are trying to say with their novelty ways of expression, but the public or the mass of people out there do for the most part understand what it is being talked about it and express that sentiment to others even left alone.

There is no society of spectacle because we always where about spectacle, the spectacle of life, what it is important is the knowledge derived from those experiences, and they continue to be real.

In ancient Roman times some people complaining about those same issues you are complaining and still life moved on, that is why probably nobody wants to get informed about those discussions because it is a weak that has no merits.

Life is what it is, you either accept it or not it doesn’t make others more wrong or more right either way it just is.



Books expand your mind, encourage imagination, and spur evolution along it’s path.
Social media devolves into a mob mentality while trying to establish a pecking order.
i.e. You never leave the playground, and learning is done through practice and research.
Social by definition does not imply learning as a rule.
Unless one of your “playmates” starts a class on the playground.

Hermes says:

Look at this

This thread has already exceeded plenty of books regarding intelligent, insightful words. The only thing that could make a book better is that most of them don’t get past the editorial review. If the same were to apply to facebook comments then it probably would reach the same overall quality. And now you have to consider what is better, a place where everyone, even people who have to say something are more than those who have something to say, can spreak freely, or a system where only the most “profitable” or “smart” words can be published.

Niall (profile) says:


Likewise, reading can be a very social activity. It doesn’t matter if it is social like reading in the coffeeshop (having people around you), social like a shared experience (all my friends have read this so I can talk with them abou it), social like reading to a partner or child, or social like an author reading to a group.

Reading isn’t automatically social or unsocial, although more often than not it is immediately unsocial. But so what?

Social media isn’t automatically social or unsocial, although more often than not it is immediately social. But so what?

All of these become relative value judgements, and like someone else said, this debate has been going on since TV arrived, if not longer. I’m sure we could find some examples from earlier centuries if we tried.

A man says:

I'll give it a go

You think it’s only possible to learn from nonfiction? Incredible. How on earth can anyone say they can learn more from Facebook than from the greatest novels and recorded knowledge from the greatest minds who ever lived? Everyone is just trying to justify their Facebook addiction. If your FB friends are so intelligent, tell them to write a book, or make any type of art. We need them.



Facts stand all by themselves.
They need no alibi, excuse, or justification.
As with most things, books or social media have their own merits, but the mistake is in trying use one to exclude the other. It’s like cutting off an arm [or a nose] to spite the other.
Instead of using both as they were intended.
It’s amazing that mr.Masnick inspired all of this writing with only a few paragraphs. If he’s not thanking us for his paycheck, he should be.
My wife is a huge fb fan. I’m not. I don’t agree with giving away any info without it being on purpose. And to help her remember to be conscious of what she writes, I’ve paraphrased Thomas Fuller to make his words work for our timeline.
“Many are the ‘WISE’ speeches of the foolish.”
by the way… How many of you knew that fb won the right in court to claim ownership of anything with the words f… or b… ?

proximity1 says:


Yet more absurd mischaracterization of my views and the points I’m making.

I don’t object much–or even at all to how people express themselves–whether that “how” is supposed to mean “on social network fora such as those on the internet/www as opposed to, for example, on the sidewalk, in a caf? or in the letters-to-the-editor pages of a newspaper or magazine” or whether it’s supposed to mean “the manner (i.e. style) in which they express their opinions, arguments, etc.”

I’m arguing that some (the more the better) actual knowledge gained through intellectual effort (that would be reading sources which call for some effort on our parts to understand them) is typically automatically dismissed, rejected, ridiculed, denounced as both unnecessary as well as condescending, elitist, arrogant, etc. in practically all fora such as this one–whether it’s a specialized interest forum or a very general interest forum; I’m also claiming that, without going so far as to actually run many people off, a site could experience better, more interesting commentary if there were at least a common assumption that informed comment, based on reading (when reading is a well-founded indicator of having gained some knowledge of the topic(s) ) among the regular participants, that this would be generally a good thing, something to encourage.

Daniel Meloy (user link) says:


Perhaps this sentiment is a social residue of the period when computers and the internet was growing substantially, particularly in the 90’s, but how overuse was considered incredible unhealthy. And while this is true to an extent, I believe that many people have reflexes in their minds that spending digital time is wasting your time. Perhaps this has affects on your question of why social media experiences are shunned? Thoughts? Let me know! Thanks!

amy says:

Well, first of all, there’s no point citing Turkle; she doesn’t get it and never has. Beyond that, though, it seems to me that this debate-ish makes sense only if you’re comparing apples/apples. And if we’re talking worthiness, then it makes sense to look at the best conversation and the best books.

Personally, I don’t see why a person shouldn’t have both, nor why high-quality online multi-person rapid conversation’s any better or worse than the collected correspondence of the greats of any day: Adams/Jefferson, Sartre/de Beauvoir, etc. But to say that these conversations are comparable to good books is only to demonstrate that you don’t know what goes into making, let alone reading, a good book, nor do you understand the tl;dr barrier and why it’s important. Nor why the high-quality conversation’s going on among people who read and write scholarly and literary books (among other things).

They’re two different things, books and conversations, and they serve different purposes.

Hermes, if an editorial filter were applied to facebook, facebook would be worth about $15, because most of its content and users would be gone.

Lucas Corso says:


Why do we celebrate reading and decry social media? I think it’s the substitution of social media for reading that many decry. And we decry it because reading books is more than just “an escape from the real world.” Good literature challenges your mind. The world of literature isn’t limited to Twilight and the like.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m currently reading Brandon Sanderson’s “A Memory of Light”. We can discuss whether Mr. Sanderson stayed true to the vision of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. We can discuss whether or not the book is well-written. We can discuss whether or not the characters have a realistic feel to them.

Or we can go to Facebook, view more of my friends’ incessant baby pictures, and be the 100th person to type “Ooh! So cute!” This is the chief difference. While there are obviously many exceptions both ways, the general rule is that reading books makes you smarter. Posting on the internet does not.

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