In his weekly column, Thomas Dimopoulos takes us down the back streets of Saratoga to bring us the city's best stories
It was a phenomenon that first became obvious in this city about 15 years ago, when the tall metal towers sprung up from the earth and began transmitting signals to outer space.
All of a sudden there were scores of people, with palm- to-ear, engaged in animated conversation as they walked down Broadway. To the uninformed, it must have seemed city pedestrians were inexplicably struck by some form of madness.
From there it grew and those early cellphone days were heaved onto the trash pile of wasteland technology alongside the carcasses of Angelfire and GeoCities and Friendster and public telephone booths.
Fifty years after dreams of becoming The Great Society, we have instead become the Instant Society, and 40 billion downloaded apps later have the ability to connect to a planet of users while simultaneously managing to command flocks of Angry Birds into battle against pesky green pigs.
The historic Saratoga Race Course, which had a historic race-day weekend, on Sunday staged its first-ever social media day event. Social networkers who “liked” NYRA on Facebook, or followed on Twitter, were gifted free T-shirts, visited by jockeys and designated a private seating area near Big Red Spring , where they could interact with one another to the guitar-playing soundtrack of Ernie Munick, who performed tunes popularized by the Jefferson Airplane, Mott the Hoople, and The Beatles.
Much of the social interaction was conducted on social network sites.
“We stopped by #sarsocial and noticed this horse.... On a tree...can you see it?” tweeted @Saratogashoots, while an enthusiastic symphony of bells, chimes, horns and tri-tones alerted other smartphone users nearby of incoming texts, emails, and requests to visit FarmVille.
“Bear talked to people who have seen John Travolta, NY Governor, and Sheik of Dubai fly into Saratoga Airport #sarsocial,” reported @SkidmoreBear, a member of a healthy local Twitter community. A partial list includes @Saratogaidiots, @MamatogaJenny, @BrendanOMeara, @BklynBckstretch, @SS_CitizenGroup, @SaratogaFarmie, @SaratogaGoose.
Adding to the local Twittersphere of media agencies, businesses and tourism organizations, is the plethora of regional blogs - “Saratoga In Decline,” “Fun in Saratoga,” and “Citizen Nancy” among them - each offering vastly different flavors of Spa City life.
The New York Racing Association picked a good time to introduce the social media day gathering. Saturday afternoon, NYRA tweeted out the historic news: Alpha and Golden Ticket hit the wire together in the
#Travers at #Saratoga. First Dead Heat since 1874.
It was a busy weekend overall for instant headlines: Multiple wounded after gunman opens fire at Empire State Building; Republican National Convention gets underway Monday; Tropical Storm Isaac headed for Haiti, and: Astronaut Neil Young, first man to walk on moon, dies at age 82. NBC News broke the news of the death of Neil Armstrong, they just got the name wrong, an unfortunate by-product of fast-feeding events to an instant society.
For some, it is just so much information overload. One of the more humorous opinions on the topic of instant tweets was offered recently by Bob Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government.
“I really don’t need to know, that at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, you brushed your teeth,” he said.
Like it or not, there is no turning back in a society which was predicted decades ago in a collaborative effort between writer William Burroughs and performance artist Laurie Anderson: “Language is a virus from outer space. And hearing your name is better than seeing your face.”
Thomas Dimopoulos is a local author who has a knack for storytelling, and a gift for finding some of the best-kept secrets in Saratoga Springs.
You can follow Thomas on Twitter at @thomdimopoulos
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