“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”

Tolstoy’s words came to me today after a discussion with a colleague about the degree to which the social media world had affected live events. His argument (my colleague’s, not Tolstoy) was that young people in particular now considered videoing, photographing and tweeting about live events as part of the experience. My argument was that we have become so pre-occupied with recording the moment that we seem less and less able to live the moment.

Most of the live music I now watch, I find myself surrounded by people filming the stage on their smartphone. Even while the band’s performing, they’re manically tweeting about being there. Now I am not averse to Twitter and I am writing this as a blog post, so I am certainly not going to undermine social media as a valuable medium. But have we become so obsessed with sharing the moment that we forget to just be in the moment?

Surely watching a band live has to be about losing yourself in the music, about admiring the mastery of the musicians, or singing along to the songs that form the soundtrack to your life? If you’re concentrating on telling people that you’re there, or sharing with friends what they’re missing, aren’t you really missing the point?

Shared experience is often a better experience. But there’s a deep connection at play when you’re with friends, all dancing to the same song. I don’t feel the same depth when I am posting a video on YouTube – I just feel distracted by the mechanics of sharing. Have we confused shared experience with sharing the experience? Should we, as Tolstoy suggested, stop for a moment worrying about sharing and just look around, just live in the moment?

Pigeon Post

To blog or to micro-blog – that is the question.

Yesterday, a very close friend said to me it was a shame I wasn’t updating my blog as much as I had been.  Then Jemima Kiss wrote in the Observer about compulsive digital behaviour and obsessive tweeting.

They might appear to share much in common, but there’s a huge difference between blogging and micro-blogging (updates on Twitter or facebook). The former is a chance to explore an idea, develop a theme, chronicle something of the modern world. The latter can be the simplicity of a single thought, or tend towards an addiction, an anxiety-inducing need to constantly chatter, corroding concentration and eating away at considered thought or action.

Snapping and uploading; Twitter; YouTube; Instagram: it seems that in reporting the moment, the Twitterati risk missing the full impact of the moment itself.  I’ve blogged here in the past about the effect multi-tasking is having on our brains. Now I am as concerned about the effect Twitter is having on our ability to savour the moments that makes life special.

As an early adopter, a self-confessed geek who loves his tech, I love playing with digital kit and the applications it supports. As someone who works in digital communications and social media in particular, I am not about to turn my back on tweeting altogether. And I remain convinced of the power of digital comms in education, business, culture and other walks of life.

So there’s still a place for brevity and immediacy, for news flashes and links to articles, for Twitter. But now, I want to redress the balance away from excessive tweeting and back towards celebrating and questioning life in a form longer than 140 characters.

Today I’ve renamed this blog. Pigeon Post is the wonderfully-named bolt hole we have in South Devon. It’s our place – a place where tweeting seems too, well, urban. A place where life moves at the kind of pace where you have time to consider.

Such Tweet Sorrow

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s micro-blogging treatment of the most famous love story of all has been running for ten days now. Enough time to pass judgment on a genuinely innovative take on Romeo & Juliet.

Such Tweet Sorrow has taken the story out of Verona into 21st Century England. Juliet is bored at school. Her sister, Jess, ran the London Marathon yesterday. The star-cross’d lovers now woo each other on Twitter.

The Twitter version is being improvised by a cast of six RSC actors, working over five weeks with a couple of authors and an RSC director. The timeline is designed to be real-time, so you see (a version of) Shakespeare’s story – the plot that is – unfolding on Twitter.

But not his poetry. As I write this, Tybalt has just come out with: “Could of sworn I just saw that prick @mercuteio leave. Surely he would have the balls to confront me.”

And that’s where I’m left thinking that in this case, the medium is not the message. Romeo and Juliet has seen countless interpretations. But it’s those that retain the poetry, some of the finest the English language will ever see, that work. Baz Luhrmann’s modern re-telling retains pride of place in my DVD collection as a faultless example of cinema. Even the exception – West Side Story – works as a musical, not as a version of Romeo and Juliet.

I applaud the RSC for trying. And I’m sure we’ll find an art form that prospers in Twitter. But for now, Shakespeare isn’t it.