Tweet or Die?

What’s the scarcest resource of the 21st century?

Human attention.

That was the opening salvo at the alumni weekend of the Columbia Journalism School this spring. The theme of the weekend was, “The Future of Text.”

I earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia in the 60s. I’d never gone to an alumni weekend, but with newspapers, magazines and books expected to became extinct in our lifetimes, the choice is clear: adapt or die.

Columbia is determined to reinvent journalism. They’ve set up a new dual degree master’s program in journalism and computer engineering. (I’ve never met a journalist who could be an engineer, but I guess a new breed is mutating)

Columbia also created a department of Internet journalism, and they’re running boot camps in social media skills for their students and alumni.

It’s not enough to do great writing, they say. “You have to build, curate and enhance your online brand.” The school’s tech guru, Sree Sreenivasan, says “We still teach reporting, writing and storytelling, but your work has to be seen and your readers have to evangelize for it.”

I sign up for Sree’s two-hour workshop in social media. He says the Big Three are: facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m already on two of them, so I think: I can do this.


He says the N.Y. Times just appointed its first social media editor, “to listen to social media and evangelize for it in the newsroom.”

Social media, he says, is where “radio was in 1912. TV was in 1950. The Internet was in 1996.”

Facebook has 400 million users. “It’s one of the biggest time sinks in history,” Sree says, and “it will continue to grow astronomically and consume people’s time.”

But here’s the problem. They’re constantly changing how facebook works and they don’t tell you when they make changes!

“Facebook is not helpful, transparent or easy,” Sree says. SO WHY DOES FACEBOOK RULE? Why doesn’t someone build a friendlier mousetrap?

Sree says you need a facebook strategy or you’ll get overwhelmed. I’m already there. You confirm a dozen friends and overnight, you have 100 requests for friends and your wall is so full you can’t read what’s on it.

If you write a book, Sree says, you need a special facebook page for it and video to promote it. “So start taking videos while you interview people and write,” he says. “YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world, and you must have your work on YouTube.

He moves on to LinkedIn, whose primary purpose is networking for jobs. “You should be on it before you need it,” Sree says.

Okay, I’m on LinkedIn and YouTube (not well), but the site I fear and loathe and so far refuse to join is Twitter. He says the maximum post on twitter is 140 characters. “Every newspaper headline is 80 to 90 characters and it’s able to tell you what the story is,” he says. He keeps his own tweets to 120 characters, so they can be re-tweeted in a chain.

Re-tweet? That’s one of a barrage of foreign terms he spits out: Hash Tag, Tweet Deck,, Hoot Suite, Mashable. I take notes faster and faster until it feels like I’m going under.

After two hours, I need resuscitation. Sree says, “Don’t feel overwhelmed and don’t feel pressured. Social media is still in its infancy. Just take one step at a time. But do take a step.”

Heeding his advice, I’m going to remodel my blog and will be posting on all things about Life after 50.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT. How are you adapting to social media?



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56 thoughts on “Tweet or Die?

  1. Sherrie Phillips

    Don't you mean “tweet” us to dinner? Sorry, I couldn't resist that one. I do Facebook have refused to do Twitter or Linkd. I'll have to give the title some thought – but great idea!

  2. Casey Dawes

    The trick is, that your blog title has to reflect what your target audience is searching for on the web. “Life after 50” means something. “Still Crazy” is a movie title, so you're competing with that. “Boomer Life” is over-used but appropriate.

    As an over-50 business coach/techy/writer, I get social media and was “ahead of the curve.” I'd be happy to spend a half-hour with you on the phone to tease through this and come up with the right name. Casey (

  3. amba

    No need to fear Twitter, Sara. It's easy and fun. First of all it's a good place to announce your blog posts; second of all, writing original “tweets” is like writing haiku — a new form that's perversely satisfying in its economy. — Annie Gottlieb


    Hi, I agree with Cathy, just above. I agree too with Betty White on SNL that it is “a terrible waste of time.” (she is 88)
    It reminds me of high school, when we “girls” collected and traded portraits of our friends for our wallets. The girl with the fattest wallet won. And we all knew she would.
    For this reason, I think that the Big Three social network sites are passing fads among people who WILL grow up. But there are always more freshmen coming along . . .
    But I agree with Sara's professor: if you are writing a book — or have a commercial enterprise, you have to have Facebook and Youtube and put yourself out there. Just another way to be a media, um, Lady of the Evening. When I write the Great American Novel (I am only 73) I certainly will use the media, both on the Web and real humans in town.

    Paul Theroux recently said that he learned to write as I did: cursive writing with a steel-nibbed pen and an inkwell.”So I have run the gamut,” he said.( Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

    He added that he still writes on paper, by hand. I will probably do the same, and hope that a scanner exists which can produce text onscreen which can be edited.

    I am thinking of all the geeks in Silicon Valley, new millionaires at age 23, who have no spare time for dating- – and whose social skills are so poor that no girl would go near them, anyway. “Charm schools” for young geniuses sprang up. Human interaction was encouraged, and now, lo!! ballroom dancing is popular. Actual human contact.

    It is very nice.

    Love and Aloha
    Bev in Honolulu

  5. Jane

    I think I'm ready to go back to a world in which we used smoke signals to ccmmunicate. I feel totally overwhelmed by all the media craze. Aloha,Jane

    “Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, Glass of coca cola in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a

  6. Marta

    The mind reels – or whatever is left of it.

    Call it suicide, but I refuse to get on Twitter. On principle – or whatever is left of it.

  7. hollypdx

    I'm an early adopter of social media. Twitter is really not too daunting. Here is some advice to get going in the twitterverse…

    1. Consider how twitter will meet your needs and how you will use it as a tool.

    2. Open a twitter account and give careful consider to your twitter handle.

    3. Follow people. I'm a software engineer so I mostly follow tech evangelists and entrepreneurs. You can also include local politicians, breaking news, local commutes, etc. Make it want you want. How do you know who to follow or how do you find them? Search for someone you respect in your industry and see who they follow, add people they follow as you see fit, and on and on. As an eng. it's my absolute #1 go-to source for news re: all things tech.

    4. Watch. Be passive initially to get the feel re: how twitter works, understand the vibe, etc.

    5. Tweet. It's a marketing tool for some but it's fun too.

    6. If you have a smart-phone, there are many free twitter apps which gives ease of use for most of us.

  8. Gette

    Still Crazy is not original enough for the person you are and the way you catch the wave of the moment and utilize it to great effect. I'm thinking of possible titles for your blog and will continue to do so. For now, how about: Work In Progress or Subject to Revision or Still Evolving!

  9. Roz

    just having turned 51-i say a big oh no

    look i am old school mechanical engineer

    i have all these accounts. I never use them-ever

    my face book page is covered with all kinds of teenage crapolo from my neices abd nephews-i am aboutto shut it down.

    realyy who has the time if they are working and like me has a very sick child-the only people who have time are my old 80 year relatives and HS kids.
    my day who was a brilliant engineer till the end-absolutely refused to do this stuff. kinda sad

    i can understand how you can take down a gov't withtweets

    but look my 30 year old engineering co-workers don't even have these accounts

    they are such an invasion of privacy.
    we should be screaming about the GULF COAST and the robber barrons destroying our environemnet

    my 2 cents

    got to get back to work

  10. Buffy

    Sara, I'm a 60yr old woman who has been creating computer graphics since 1974. I started as a technical illustrator using pen and ink to draw the interior wiring diagrams of computers!
    I look at computers and the world that has developed around them in the past 35 years as a progression. The computer is nothing more than a tool. The same way a caveman may have felt about the pencil. Fearful, threatened (chiseling was easier?). The computer can't think for you. It doesn't generate creativity. It's dumb. Don't be afraid.

    I think “Still Crazy” has a negative sound. I'm not crazy and I love your work… My 86 yr old father even Tweets. He has found writing to be a wonderful outlet for his creativity since retiring. Hasn't had any luck getting his work published but Tweets for fun and to keep his thought process sharp. So much for angst!
    Since you're naming a blog and also sharing your fear of the social networking world, I would suggest something like: “Kicking and Screaming” (as in being dragged into the 21st Century!)

  11. Publishers

    Yeah, I, too, rebel against Twitter as a symptom of much that is sick in our disintegrating culture. And like others who have commented, I recognize the value of Facebook but personally hate it. I wonder if the return is worth the time it takes to keep it up. I doubt it.

    I agree that Still Crazy is not a title that telegraphs what the blog is about. I'll think.

  12. Anonymous

    Twitter is the silliest! They're the one that poses the question “What are you doing now?” Aren't they? Who gives a rat's a** about all that boring, everyday minutiae?!

    As for Facebook, I'm definitely too long in the tooth to consider people I don't really know, perhaps haven't even met, to be my “Friends!”

  13. Anonymous

    Sara – you and I don't know each other well, so I know we couldn't have chatted about this, and you just put to words my very thoughts, concerns, and frustrations about FB. They are starting to feel like Big Brother to me.

  14. Tim

    I'm going for the free dinner offer. I like The Chop House or The Broker; you? My submission is ……………………..LOL>50.
    OMG50, BFF50, MFC50, you gt it. Stilly Crazy? It may be too close to the song title. I won't quote Foresst Gump. eLIFE
    can't do looking into someones eyes, hearing thier laugh, the emotion in their voice, their touch, the real things that make them human.Can't imagine GPS, WebCams everywhere, every keystroke and contact digitally tracked and stored.If you want to Know what I'm doin' let's hide under a blanket and I'll show you. Maybe I'll have to learn how to play virtual frisbee. So, about that dinner.? We could stratigise the Sara vs Sarah concept, Bambi killer vs Bambi lover. Logger vs Tree Hugger. Yuppie vs Yippie, or maybe not, I'll let you talk while eat. Bye

  15. Dr. Barbra

    I love your title!
    I am on Facebook and LinkedIn, but I refuse to twitter, so far.
    I refused all invites to be on Facebook for many months and then I caved. Now I am as addicted to that as to my email. OY VAY!

    I do love staying in touch with all my old and new friends.

    Today I am learning how to use my new cell phone, that I only got out of necessity, believe me. There is much anxiety for the electronically challenged to learn to use new devices that become more and more intricate.

  16. Sara Davidson

    Thanks for all your suggestions. Keep 'em coming.
    I'm also looking for an intern to teach me how to do things on twitter and facebook. And maybe manage my facebook stuff. Any suggestions?
    Please send to:

    Have a great weekend, everyone.
    Spring is finally here, I think. (It snowed last week in Boulder)

  17. Ellen

    I catch slivers of my kids on Facebook, but read what they say without commenting. I've got never-used twitter and wordpress accounts. Why do I think I'm a writer when I just read but don't put myself out there? Journaling used to be a meditation; but blogging is announcing your stream-of-consciousness to the world, never to be reclaimed and buried. I'm not ready.

  18. Anonymous

    … After all these years…?

    Crazy Clues
    I'm Crazy for View
    Third Rock Rocks
    Rock of Ages
    Ages Rock
    The Aged Rocker

    Paranoid is better
    Crazy Rocks

    Sounds of Noise
    French Fried Crazies

    Crazy Love…. or

    That's it for now.

    So where will content go? The age of the sidebar wisdom? Vhat a Crrazy Vorld!!

    I sell artwork via web I have a facebook account, and Twitter. Haven't really tested their marketing strengths yet. will seriously consider it. Youtube I never tried that yet. Good idea. Very good idea. Thanks for the update. Loved your first book, very inspirational. Looking forward to the next.

  19. Caroline C

    Social media can be useful: most of my far-flung family and friends use Facebook to exchange photos and news, and LinkedIn has become my new Rolodex. I use YouTube and Twitter for work, keep an eye on developing media like Jumo, and occasionally consider a blog. Just test what feels comfortable for you and go with that! You don't have to tweet every 5 seconds or play with every app on Facebook. And if I come up with a better blog title at 3 a.m., I'll pass it along!

  20. Reynaldo

    Mrs. Sara Davidson, my first contact with your work was the book you wonderfully wrote about Mr. Rock Hudson, 25 years ago. Years later, with Intertnet, i've been reading some of your text. Today i read your msg of the Tweeter. I'll keep reading your texts. It´s a old matter but the kind, strong, true and beautiful way you wrote about Rock Hudson touched me. Have a nice day. Reynaldo. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

  21. Holly

    Go to to view Allegra Huston's tweets. She's not a big twitter-user so, I think she's a good example as a start for you.

    Do know that you're the norm, here, and have not fallen behind some trend; this social-media stuff is new for most.

    I suggest that you don't overlook community colleges for possible intern help. I have found that it's community colleges that are most helpful, with a seminar here and there, when becoming acquainted with social media. You could also post your intern needs on the college boards' if you're interested in local help.

    Good luck! It's not that bad. Really.

  22. Terry

    It’s hard to turn you down, but I figure that, if I take die over Tweet, I’ll live happier and longer. So whether it’s Stilly Here or Still Here or whether spelling and edits are Still Dead I’m content with email and ‘still’ getting used to web news and wondering how I’m going to start the wood stove without newsprint!

  23. Patrick Grace

    I don't think all this absorption in social media will turn out to be good for us. Looks like it will
    just swallow all who lend their souls to its maw. We'll see.

  24. Anonymous

    ttention is cheap. Undivided, mindful attention is what's virtually nonexistent…..

  25. Linda

    Sara, great blog! I look forward to reading more of your thoughts . “Leap” had a great impact on me, and continues to do so. Timeless!”

  26. Jim

    A very good and thoughtful piece.
    I read it several times and now will type up my notes…. -30-

  27. Anonymous

    Wonderful blog, Sara. Twitter isn't so hard to conquer, as it turns out. Whatever you post on FB, etc., just post on Twitter, too. Spend 15 minutes a day looking at Twitter, and a little more than that on FB . . . you'll be good to go.”

  28. Judi


    I agree that it is overwhelming to try to keep up with all these sites. If I can manage to blog once a week, I'm happy…and what about texting and BBM as my kids say about their Blackberries.

    Let me know when you start your blog about life after 50. I'm a boomer blogger too. Perhaps we can link.


  29. Anonymous

    Have not been a fan of Twitter, as it seems like the majority of posts are pretty banal. But, perhaps it has promise if you think of a post in terms of a haiku or six word memoir. Then it starts to become interesting. I suppose all of the various social media have different meaning and functions depending on the person or group. It can be whatever you make it.

  30. Anonymous

    I like “Still Crazy,” but, as you say, the blog will be all about Life after 50…so why not call it that? “Life after 50.” I like it. So will millions of mid-lifers who–with that title–will have no problem searching for/Googling and actually finding the blog on their own. “Life after 50” is much easier to identify (and identify with) what the blog is about than “Still Crazy.” And, on a side note, why toot the lyrical horn of Paul Simon? It's YOU we love, Sara! Thanks.

  31. Anonymous

    I joined them all…used them for a few days and now just do my emails. Don't even text anymore.

    I'm over 50 and I'm not a good sales prospect…and I'm not trying to sell anyone anything.

  32. Anonymous

    Hi Sara,
    While we are all writing and reading at our computers, who's taking care of things?
    Can you or anyone convey a news story in just 140 characters? Maybe Chinese characters. Are we dumbing ourselves down or engaging in real debate? These and many other questions come to mind and I doubt I will find an answer on Twitter etc.

  33. patrice

    I have been a gigging musician for 20 years. These days I email perspective venues and send them to my web site, myspace, facebook, etc. so they can see what kind of following I have. I think it is ironic that this has not one thing to do with my musical ability, but they assumption is that if you have massive friends in social networks you are considered successful.

  34. Stuart

    As we say here in J-town (Jerusalem) — gevalt!Evangelizing my brand?! Save me The infoglut and dumbing down have driven me to burrow deeper and deeper into old musty books. Take a hop over here sometime — an alternative universe. Your actual friend, Stuart

  35. Anonymous

    Is your blog stilly crazy or still crazy? you have both in this post. I would like to see you use an SEO-friendly title, so people find you more easily. maybe your name:still crazy? I prefer your name: loosely changing. I think your writing is more about your changes, and how they reflect the boomer woman's life cycle, than being crazy. plus I have a mentally ill daughter and am not loving the crazy word. but that is just me…
    pls start a Twitter feed. don't worry about HootSuite. just start. there are two means of proceeding: life casting or mind casting. see Jay Rosen's feed for the best mind casting I have seen. He's an NYU j-prof. Life casting is harder, more like a diary.
    Why would you resist this? you will be a natural. just don't use it as a bulletin board for your blog or other worK “I have put up a new entry” or “my book is out in paperback with a new afterword.” people hate that pure commercialization and will look elsewhere.
    as pithy as you are, you will love it. try @moorehn, a former WSJ writer who is a cool chick. just google that and read the feed, see what you think. you do not have to be “on” to read feeds, unless they are locked.
    try it!

  36. Robin

    Re: blog title.

    PUL-EASE Don't use 'Still Crazy' – it's self defeating.

    Our parents, the 'Greatest Generation' would never have devalued themselves like that and then expected someone to read on. We boomers should not apologize for ourselves in that way.

    How about something like 'Still Searching or /seeking or /Exploring or/Experimenting' etc- as so much of your work is about adapting to external social changes and expectations. They have shaped your life and work. And that of your readers, like me.

    Have just finished 'Bright-Sided' by Barbara E (whoops forgot how to spell the last name.) A lovely history of the positive thinking movement and how business and religion have virtually swapped places in the past decade. Worth your time.

    Still Truckin'??????

  37. Bill Henderson

    Twitter is just a medium, like any other––blank, you define it. People tweet haikus, interesting links, boring personal updates, headlines, etc. etc. None of this is a big deal.

  38. Anonymous

    I think you will agree that I have the perfect title for your blog.

    Enjoy using it and I will continue to enjoy reading it.


  39. Rasskazchenka

    Sara, I have to agree with many here that 'Still Crazy' is just not right. Honestly, I probably would not even read it if I stumbled across it.
    I personally find it increasingly difficult to keep up with the linguistic changes which are taking place and which are a direct consequence of the new ways in which we may communicate with one another. What did I do twenty five years ago with out a computer, twenty years ago without the internet, fifteen years ago with out my cell phone? I guess had a pen and paper, a newspaper, a front door and a land-line.
    We still have all those choices, now we just have many more. We also now have the choice to 'streak' ourselves on the social media sites revealing much more to many more than ever before. Social Media is really the stadium streaker's dream! The sixties gave us the sexual revolution, the 10's the 'going public' revolution maybe.
    Maybe some of this will help you create the perfect Title to your up-coming Silver Streaker Blog. : )

  40. Wilma

    The best part of your blog was your statement about the dearth of human attention. God evidently has answered my prayers for discernment,and blessings for discerning, powerful sisters. I am not on Facebook, & never intend to be, nor am I addi ted to the computer nor anything else..Its a pracitcal, usefukl tool. Period.

    I do abhor excess. Facebook antics now are excessive to the max! I am becoming grateful for the effects of recession because it has caused many people to rein in excess and to savor the realization that life can be beautiful while simplifying. I am grateful for discerning sisters such as you, Anita, and Pastor Heidi, and for your intelligence, courage, & maturity. Thanks!

  41. Anonymous

    Hi Sara,
    Once again, you are such an articulate voice for “our” generation. I too belong to Facebook and Linkedin. Facebook because I like to see what my kids are up to, but your media guru is right–when I log in once a month or so there is way too much to read, and I find messages and invitations that I haven't replied to, so another layer of overload guilt. I do check my email several times a day, but realize this is dinosaur technology for the young folks. And I joined Linkedin because several friends requested it, but don't find anything there useful. And Twitter–help!! I don't even text message. And what's this about social media being still in its infancy. If that is the case, I guess I am going to remain painfully stunted in my growth.

  42. tarron

    as for all the possibilities for looking like i looked at 45 while i am now 54, i have to admit i'm interested in learning about these things and seeing the results on those i know and love first. i had back surgery recently. My incision and scar is on my belly. off center of mid line and i admit i don't like it a bit. one of my current considerations along the lines of changing how i look is to have a tattoo which would change this ugly off-midline scar into a heart which would encompass the other side of the midline up to and above my belly button. so i asked my friend who has a wardrobe of body tattoos what she thinks about this. in a nut shell, she said, “Pain killers of multiple varieties. let me know when you are ready and i'll hook you up”! wow, sounds worse than back surgery is all i can say.

  43. babatjie

    Still Crazy may not be the best you can do, but I question the lightness of heart and/or cultural literacy of those who think it is demeaning, or refers to a movie. A few years back, my birthday cake read STILL CRAZY AFTER 50 YEARS. For me, it captured what I took away from Paul Simon's song in 1975 (when he was all of 34) … that sense of being still susceptible to the wacky spontaneity and romance that wells up when drinking with an old lover… but having picked up some perspective along the way. And the reference served to place me in the g-g-generation that embraced that album during the 40 weeks it stayed on the Billboard charts. So, even if you improve upon it, didn't want you to feel that the suggestion spoke to no one.

  44. Ken

    Hi Sara,
    I have been absent for a spell but still follow your postings. I too joined FB to follow my daughter and our far flung friends but have resisted Twitter and frankly find Linkedin to be of little use.

    As for the name of the blog Second Act has been overused INMHO, Second Journey already exists, and it it turns out to often be a third and fourth act before it is all over. So maybe ACT II, III, and IV might work.
    At 72 I wouldn't settle for just my first two acts. Keep it up, whatever you call it.

  45. Anonymous

    Going on 60. The form is going. That makes me more nervous than the eyebrows. The whole form girl. I'm starting to look old. The stomach, the neck, the shoulders. Drooping. How much exercise can I do in a day to keep gravity from taking its form. I work out at a gym, but I see it will be more than 1 hr to fight this form change. I want to feel healthy. That's the main goal. If I am healthy, I look good. Re: The sleep makeup. I understand that. I hate my bags, my faded away look, my eyelashes are invisible without makeup. I'm married but I want my husband to see me sexy. I want to see me sexy. Not faded and aged. I use candles and colored lights. That helps. The legs and the hands though. That's what gives it all away. My legs look like a road that is under construction. My hands , oh forget it….. Never be young again. Never… So might as well just enjoy the aging form? Oh well.

  46. shannon leonetti

    I am trying for some place in the middle. At 60, I still color and perm my hair. I wear less makeup because it is less important. (I usually envy my friends who are perfectly painted.) I DO MY EYEBROWS because if I didn't I wouldn't have any. I have always said I wouldn't have anything tucked but my eyebrows are sagging and my eye doctor wants me to have them lifted. I will probably do it….not only so I don't look like I am always falling asleep but because there is something about permission from a doctor that gives a tuck legitimacy.

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