“Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it â€œambient awareness.â€ It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does â€” body language, sighs, stray comments â€” out of the corner of your eye. Facebook is no longer alone in offering this sort of interaction online. In the last year, there has been a boom in tools for â€œmicrobloggingâ€: posting frequent tiny updates on what youâ€™re doing. The phenomenon is quite different from what we normally think of as blogging, because a blog post is usually a written piece, sometimes quite long: a statement of opinion, a story, an analysis. But these new updates are something different. Theyâ€™re far shorter, far more frequent and less carefully considered. One of the most popular new tools is Twitter, a Web site and messaging service that allows its two-million-plus users to broadcast to their friends haiku-length updates â€” limited to 140 characters, as brief as a mobile-phone text message â€” on what theyâ€™re doing. There are other services for reporting where youâ€™re traveling (Dopplr) or for quickly tossing online a stream of the pictures, videos or Web sites youâ€™re looking at (Tumblr). And there are even tools that give your location. When the new iPhone, with built-in tracking, was introduced in July, one million people began using Loopt, a piece of software that automatically tells all your friends exactly where you are.”
The upcoming New York Times Magazine has a long feature on the effects of News Feed, Twitter and other forms of incessant online contact.