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Social media's phantom menace



Meet Darth Luddite.

Like fellow Sith lords, he wears a black cloak with a hood, has menacing yellow eyes and he carries a red lightsabre. He's stealthy, he's fierce and he's influential.

Where he differs from his brethren is in the targets of his evildoing. Where more aggressive brothers like Vader and Maul get their kicks from Jedicide, Darth Luddite has a different victim in his sights. He has it out for social media and he's hell bent on keeping as many people as possible from signing on to it. He's the devil on the shoulder of everyone who's unsure of joining the Twitterverse.

He sounds scary... except for the fact he doesn't exist. But you won't hear that from self-proclaimed social media "gurus" who constantly raise the spectre of technological dinosaurs that are skeptical about spending untold hours communicating through the Internet.

Darth Luddite has manifested himself in many ways. At the Grammy Awards last weekend, the time delay of the show broadcast from coast to coast meant that a live blog on would be calibrated specifically to the east and west coast time zones.

The blog, for example, would only e updated as the West Coast broadcast played out on television, meaning viewers in areas such as Vancouver, Seattle and Los Angeles got updates well after people watching in New York.

Cory Bergman, a writer with MSNBC and, chastised the show organizers for not synchronizing the live blog so that people could read it as it unfolded on television in the east. He opened that "you can't tape delay social media" and warned that ratings could drop as a result. It was as though Darth stood on the shoulder of a Grammy programmer and held him back from allowing the live blog on the West Coast.

Bergman, it seems, didn't think to click on the "#grammys" hashtag on Twitter and get his updates that way. Instead he had to take a cheap shot at awards show organizers who just aren't as cool as he is.

Closer to Whistler, I saw a similar example last week. Paul Chapman, a video games columnist with The Province newspaper, took to his Twitter and ripped into some local sports writers for not having their own accounts. Referring to sportscasters Dave Tomlinson, David Pratt and Don Taylor, he said he enjoyed their work but that they were "delinquent in their job(s)."

A writer without Twitter, he wrote, was like a golfer who refused to use a putter. The analogy was a step away from a Thomas Friedman-like metaphor that not using Twitter was like driving a car without a steering wheel.

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