Is something being lost when top rock climbers bring their smart phones on difficult routes?
The New York Times published a really interesting piece last month about the controversy around top rock climbers using mobile devices to stay in touch with world via sites like Facebook and Twitter while on long climbs that would have been isolating experiences even just ten years ago. On one side you have climbers like Tommy Caldwell (seen above), one of the best rock climbers in the world with an impressive record of first ascents and hard routes, including being taken hostage by rebels in Kyrgyzstan while he was hundreds of feet off the ground attempting a new line with his friends John Dickey, Jason Smith, and now-ex wife Beth Rodden. On a recent successful first ascent of a new line in Yosemite Valley, Caldwell updated his Facebook page with live reports along the whole route. Thousands of fans from around the world watched and hundreds joined in with their comments while following Caldwell as he worked his way up thousands of feet of steep granite.
Caldwell's updates probably don't seem out of the ordinary to most members of the Facebook generation; when you grow up using social media and networks, it'd be more surprising to hear that a climber wasn't updating some kind of news feed while undertaking a bold new route. But in some of the more traditional corners of the climbing universe there are grumblings that the constant and live feed is taking away from the the purity and reflection that can only happen when one is truly isolated from the world on the ground.
The same argument is being played out across the entire internet as sites like Facebook and Twitter become increasingly ubiquitous while advances in mobile technology is putting smart phones in more and more people's hands. Social media and networks are quickly transforming the way people consume and produce media and there's an argument to be made that there is more value in getting more people to contribute their voices to the collective conversation than is lost by the mass adoption of mediums like Twitter that encourage shorter, less in-depth messages.
One thing is certain, things sure are interesting and only getting more so.
Swing over to the New York Times to give the whole story a read, it's a good one.
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