We often convince ourselves that immediacy is the most important thing. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.
For example, the immediacy of the news that Sarah Lacy’s interview from yesterday with Mark Zuckerberg at SXSW had gone horribly off the tracks was fascinating to those of us watching from afar on Twitter, in real time, and was surely disconcerting for Ms. Lacy, who failed to grok first how badly she had stumbled, and then immediately afterwards, failed to grok that she had failed at all. Twitter was almost as much the story as was the interviewer missing the mark.
In part, the immediacy of any moment can betray us, because we are given no time for careful consideration of “what the hell just happened to us. ” I’m sure that after a little time of review, and some reflection, Ms. Lacy will come to the realization that she had conducted an interview in a style neither conducive to the audience nor to the person being interviewed. Her immediate reaction was “screw you guys, I’m Sarah Lacy.” I bet a year or so from now, looking back, that future Sarah Lacy will hold many regrets over the response in the immediacy of the moment of the Sarah Lacy Version 2008.
This “nuance of the now” is lost on the web, where even a monumentally bad interview is being (thankfully for Ms. Lacy) overshadowed by the still breaking news of Elliott Spitzer and his personal problems coming to light.
I was just as guilty as anyone this afternoon of tweeting about the rumors flying fast and furious, once the story hit the NYT online web site. Within the span of ten minutes, I had followed three different rumors that turned out to be wildly inaccurate. When Spitzer did come to the mike, it was anti-climatic and added nothing to what we knew (or what we thought we knew).
In short – we will know more accurately what the true story is later with Spitzer than we do today, because the story will have time to be vetted for accuracy and time will be given for careful and considered reflection of the facts. The same will be true with the whole Zuckerberg interview fiasco.
Both stories may be entirely forgotten twelve months downstream. Or each may have deeper meaning than we can foresee in the moment. That’s the point – without some separation we have no perspective.
Just because we can “know” something – now – does not mean that we have the whole story now, or that we have time in the immediate moment to grasp the significance of what we are watching in the now, ever increasingly in real time.
Watching the Spitzer story unfold today I was reminded of the day 26 years ago when Ronald Reagan was shot. Wildly inaccurate information was flying about; about James Brady dying (he didn’t) and Al Haig being in charge (he wasn’t). That is the closest I can come to describing the flow of what was happening today in the news, though the seriousness of a politician getting caught in sexual misconduct comes in no way close to the seriousness of an assassination attempt.
We have the ability to communicate “in the now” to a broader audience with an immediacy only imagined a short while ago – but it does not give us greater insight or understanding. That still requires time, careful consideration, and judgment.
They still don’t have a Web 2.0 service for common sense. But I hear they’re working on it.