As most internet junkies have been doing, I’ve been reading a lot about Google’s decision to retire Google Reader on July 1 and the limited options available to fill the void. In nearly every story and post I’ve read on the subject, it’s been mentioned that RSS feeds have been replaced by Twitter and Facebook. And every time I’ve read it I’ve cringed.
At the risk of sounding like a terrible friend, I’m just going to come out and say that I rely very little on my Twitter feed and hardly at all on my Facebook news feed for discovering the best of what the internet has to offer. This isn’t to say that I hate my friends or that I’m not interested in what they have to say. It’s just that, in the words of Sweet Brown, “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Maybe if I were more selective in who I followed this wouldn’t be so much of a problem but the flow of information is so massive and often so mind-blowingly pointless and during election season infuriating there simply isn’t time to sift through it all.
Google Reader does the sifting because it gives me updates of the sites I enjoy, the blogs I read and the topics I follow on Google Alerts (please tell me that isn’t the next thing to go). Google Reader is my gateway to the internet. Where we’re told that most Americans log into Facebook before they even get out of bed every morning, my internet ritual consists of checking my Gmail account first and going to my Google Reader second. I make my way to Twitter later in the day and Facebook I mostly access via email notifications and through the interface of a couple pages I manage.
To be fair to social media, I also have a healthy supply of RSS feeds to Facebook pages and a few from Twitter as well. The point being, I want information I can count on delivering what I want, not the crapshoot of what may or may not show up in my social media news feeds at the time I happen to be checking in. That I have less than 20 feeds listed under my friends tab in Google Reader shows you how much stock I put in the line of argument that Twitter and Facebook have replaced RSS. Sadly, it also illustrates how many of my friends have abandoned blogging and instead do everything on Facebook.
This RSS love might put me in the minority, but it’s one more reason I feel like this age is passing me by, reveling in the muck of stupid content being shared in real-time and ignoring the greatness of the internet in the first place. Gifs and memes haven’t made the internet great; people like Andrew Sullivan and Mark Frauenfelder have by turning it into a place of discovery and wonder. If not for Google Reader, I doubt I could say that I’ve seen (if not entirely digested) nearly everything The Dish and Boing Boing has posted in the last few months.
I’m still not sure what I’ll use to replace Google Reader when it bites the dust on July 1 – I’m trying out Feedly now but it’s SO slow and as a little overkill with the features – but I do know what it won’t be.