Thursday, December 1, 2011

AOL is the post-Singled Out Jenny McCarthy of the tech world

Yesterday I was at a meeting on innovation (what kind and for whom shall remain nameless), for which a former executive of AOL was a featured speaker.

And in like, a non-ironic sense.

With this one fact we have all of the critical differences between my generation and the one before me when it comes to anything related to the internet and technology.

When businessmen-of-a-certain-age hear former executive of AOL, they think of AOL's soaring success as a new business.  They think of how they were the revolutionary force, getting the average middle-income home up and online.

When someone my age hears AOL and innovation together, they snicker.

Let's be honest: if you know someone who still uses an .aol email address, you know one other thing about that person, and that's that they don't actually "use" their .aol email address.  "Here's my email," they say to you, anxiously peering over their glasses at the paper as they scribble it down. " was that DSmthdoglvr283420988?  I'll check at home and let you know."

But they never do, because they've forgotten their password.  And once that hurdle has been cleared, there's too much spam in their inbox and they hurry offline to avoid AOL's featured web performance of Nickleback, the AOL of rock/pop bands.

I remember reading an interview with Andrew Breitbart in GQ, who was talking about what it's like to have ADD and be on the computer:

I've got maybe four or five instant messenger conversations going on at the same time. I've got about five or six tabs in Firefox going. I'm probably talking on my cell phone while I'm monitoring my Fantasy baseball team, knowing the pitch count of the Milwaukee Brewers/Cincinnati Reds game.

Once again, generational differences.  I am 29 years old.  I may not have clinical ADD, but to paraphrase the Bloggess, I'm easily distracted and I have an internet connection, and that's basically the same thing.  Right now I'm writing this post, while watching a documentary on North Korean gymnastics, while on gchat, while researching the connection between "More than a Feeling," the Pixies and "Smells Like Teen Spirit."  I can't tell you how many tabs I have open in Firefox because then I'd have to shift over and I don't feel like doing that, but be assured that it's way more than five.  I don't even have my music on, because I can hear David's from the next room. And all this is completely normal.  

"But Katie," you may say.  "That's your leisure time.  Andrew Breitbart has a site thousands of people read a day, whereas your work day consists of trying to pretend that your legendary research skills are something more than the ability to access Google. And let's not pretend that anyone besides the four of us read this site."  

Well, touche, readers, I say.  But if I may expand on that thought (and I will), I'd like to point out that Andrew Breitbart is a total asshat.  But also, what he points to as ADD looks to someone my age as normal bordering on focused.

What amazes me is how quickly we are approaching the point where executives will be people who were raised on the internet.  The little tricks that my generation has used throughout our interactions with our parents, teachers and bosses since we were 14 (the computer ate my homework) just isn't going to cut it.  Things move fast.  Mark Zuckerberg no longer stands for innovation.  Facebook is the old.  Google isn't even the new.   

But remember when we all had AOL accounts?  I think back now to how eager I was to sign up for my screen name, and how  many of those free month discs we went through in my home.  Hell, most of my good friendships to this day were probably solidified through endless hours of aim conversations.   I still use that same AOL screenname as my sign-in and tag for most of my internet interactions.  But what if I had the same reaction to AOL when I was 14 as I did to Facebook at 21, or Twitter today?  I'd be a pretty isolated, sad case.  So maybe I should just hop on board and accept the inevitable.

Or maybe not.


  1. At least you're finally leaving some kind of footprint on the internet. We'll settle for that. And even if we took out AOL, we'd always have the email surveys.

  2. There's 3 other people reading this! Awesome. I am going to be famous by proxy!

  3. You're in my phone as your aol screen name.
    And GOD I loved me some e-mail surveys! The more colors used the better.

  4. My plan to slowly turn this blog into a haven for people to criticize Jenny McCarthy is progressing well.