I Miss Google Reader

I know I am not alone in this. There are too many “I Miss Google Reader” posts across the internet and this one comes years too late. But I still do miss it, not just for its functionality but also for how the idea of RSS feeds more generally occassioned a different rhythm to the consumption of online information. It felt just a little bit less like “consumption” back then, even though it was, feed after feed scanned and slurped down only for more to pile up. Heaven forfend you ever went on vacation: you’d just have to hit “mark all as read” and move on with your life. Undoubtedly it had its downsides. But I embarked on (yet another) Twitter hiatus this week, and so found myself once again with occasion to miss Google Reader.

(The reasons for why I’m taking time off Twitter are prosaic and commonplace and thus best reserved for below-the-fold. I am particularly struck by the irony that I am pretty sure that the vast majority of my meager readership comes from Twitter and so without Twitter to alert to this post’s presence no one will actually have the chance to know why I am not on Twitter, but: suffice it to say that fascists and white supremacists marching on Charlottesville made me impossibly sad and I found myself unable [unwilling?] to cope with the particular affective avalanche that the site has become since, well, you know when.)

But anyway since I left Twitter I found myself asking: how am I going to know anything about What Is Happening? Not just the news, although I have gotten to the point where I simply have to take a deep breath and detect minute changes in atmospheric conditions that communicate incontrovertibly that our president has done something horrifying yet again—but all the other stuff that Twitter was indeed good for. The music; the stories; the articles; the cool posts from those of you still writing blogs (keep circulating the tapes!). All the stuff I used to use Google Reader for.

I know: there’s Feedly. And NewsBlur. And a whole host of other services that invariably cost more than Google Reader did (it was free) and have less functionality (there are more pictures now? which can all fuck right off) or really just don’t feel the same and I am officially an Online Old, or at least an Online No-Longer Young. Not Old Enough for those for whom Google Reader was a beautiful connective tissue, a proto-social-network with all of the good trading-links stuff and less (I’m sure not none) of the whole Nazi shit. Just old enough to have gotten into its rhythm over the years and then woke up one morning to it being gone.

Because that’s really what I miss: the possibility of a different structuring rhythm to online life. I use Feedly and it works fine, but the blogs are different now. The implicit pace of publishing is still geared towards Twitter and Facebook and their particular technical machines. I don’t even know where all the cool kid blogs are anymore, if they even exist in the first place. Of course, it’s a contradiction in terms: the cool kids would never blog, and all the good grad student blogs turned into good faculty blogs, but the pace slowed and the rhythm altered.

So while I would never want to praise Google for doing anything, let’s pour one out to a road-not-taken, or at least a road-we-took-for-a-bit-and-then-lost. The distinction is important to me because the former is an eternal regret but the latter is a learning experience: the possibility that we might remember what was good and what as bad about past ways of being so that we can re-make the future just a little bit more humanely.

Anyway if you need me I’ll be on Mastodon.1

  1. Okay but The Dream Of The Nineties Is Alive On Mastodon, even if I don’t post there anymore and neither does anyone I know, and honestly I think it’s fine to leave it to the benign communist furries for whom it was the original refuge: why should we take over something that’s so clearly someone else’s? 

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