Tweet This: Nobody Gives a Fuck
Posted on February 10, 2008
Filed Under Culture & Technology |
I’ve never understood Twitter. The concept of regularly “micro-blogging” to the world an answer to the question “What are you doing?” using no more than 140 characters seems utterly stupid to me. After all, not only do I feel no compulsion whatsoever to broadcast my every move to the rest of humanity, I suppose I’m just not narcissistic enough to assume that other people, my friends and associates included, actually give a damn anyway.
Since Allen Stern at CenterNetworks has asked “” I figured it was worthwhile to write something nasty about Twitter.
I am putting Twitter users on notice: nobody really gives a fuck what you’re doing 99.9% of the time. Your Twitter “followers” who you think really care are just as unimportant and uninteresting to the human race as you are and therefore your Tweets are little more than a waste of time.
“Blog consultant” (what this is I have no idea) Aidan Henry (who should be taking over the world by 2010) Twitter is going to go “mainstream” for the following reason:
Finally, the main reason Twitter may hit the mainstream is this: it relates to real people. This isn’t “pie-in-the-sky” technology. It’s actually useful and provides real value. The closer the connection with a given Twitter contact, the more important and pertinent their updates will be to you. Obviously, family members and close friends come to mind. The passive ability to check up on your close connections is extremely valuable. Establishing itself as the leader in the space will allow Twitter the opportunity to bring people closer together - a powerful concept.
I think the idea that Twitter is “useful and provides real value” is an exaggeration. The truth is that the vast majority of Tweets don’t provide important and pertinent updates; they provide updates that are often irrelevant and unimportant to everybody except the Tweeter.
The honest truth: I don’t care that you just bought a shit-brown-colored Chevy Vega. I don’t need to know that you just got diarrhea after eating breakfast at Denny’s. And the fact that you just got the best blowjob of your life at the Happy Ending Massage Parlor doesn’t “get me off.” In other words, you might be my friend, but we lead our own lives and I’m not compelled to read a log of everything you’ve been up to. If something interesting happens to you, give me a call or tell me about it when we’re physically together. I hope that if you care about the interesting things I’ve been doing, you’ll simply ask me when we’re catching up over coffee instead of expecting me to broadcast generic updates online. Sharing our experiences via real human interactions is what keeps us connected; reading about each other’s recent activities passively in stalker fashion using Twitter doesn’t.
Many technologists and Web 2.0 kool aid drinkers seem to have a warped notion about what really “brings people together.” A recent study by sociologists at Duke University and the University of Arizona provided “powerful evidence for the argument that the country is becoming increasingly socially isolated even as cellphones, the Internet, and other technology make people more interconnected.” That we are technically more interconnected belies the fact that those connections aren’t very strong and are actually getting weaker.
I think this is driven by the notion that “value” is correlated with sheer volume of information. That is, if I can get “status updates” for my “friends” that let me know what’s going on in their lives at a frequency that is much higher than I would be able to otherwise get, I am more “connected” to my friends. This isn’t the case. Friendship is about depth, meaning and shared experience.
Example: let’s assume that I have a friend who takes a trip to Barcelona, Spain. I have two ways of learning about her trip: following her Tweets on Twitter or letting her tell me all about the experience over dinner when she gets back. With the former, I can follow the factual details of her trip passively (i.e. a Tweet indicated that she was at Plaça Catalunya at 10 am on Sunday where she ran into an old friend) while in the latter, I’m going to hear her story of the trip through a rich interaction that enables her to convey her experience as she experienced it (i.e. I listen to her tell the incredible story of how she ran into an old college friend at Plaça Catalunya and they spent the day together).
It’s quite disturbing to see that many people seem so willing to trade deep human interactions for trite informational broadcasts. Yes, I know you’re busy (surfing the Internet, spending hours in commute traffic, etc.) but there is really no comparing the two; equating the richness of interacting with another human being in real life with the coldness of a Tweet is like arguing that looking at pictures of Macchu Piccu is just as incredible an experience as actually visiting the historic sight. It isn’t.
At the end of the day, I think Twitter, and technologies like it, are, for the most part, useless given the ways most people use them. The things you Tweet about probably aren’t all that interesting, even to your friends (unless of course they’re stalkers or narcissistic time-wasters like you), and if you really want to connect with your friends, get off the damn computer (or your cell phone), meet up and share your life in real life.
The Internet may be a series of tubes, but your life is more than just a log of events. Therefore, stop clogging both up with useless Tweets. You’ll thank yourself for it someday.
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21 Responses to “Tweet This: Nobody Gives a Fuck”
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Here’s the thing, though. A lot of times, your I hate everything schtick works, because a lot of stuff deserves to be hated.
To simply hate Twitter because you don’t get it, though, shows that you haven’t really explored the myriad of applications Twitter can be used for.
Your hatred comes off as shallow.
Rizzn: I don’t get Twitter but I provided a rationale for why I don’t get it - “communications tools” like this are as “shallow” as you think my “hatred” is. I simply prefer my interactions with others to be rich, meaningful and personal.
When one of the myriad of applications Twitter can be used for actually adds value to my life and/or my personal relationships, I’ll be glad to change my tune.
Twitter is the failed implementation of the following vision: most of our real life actions get [automatically] recorded [on some supersmart phone device] as rich media (videos, pictures, purchases, short notes, leverything geo-tagged, our current location ), and pushed like facebook microfeed to our friends.
I believe Bill Gates had something to say about this too. This kind of friends micronews will be more interesting to most people than FOX news.
Unfortunately both Twitter and Facebook tried to do this way ahead of its time. The keys are that the recording should be effortless, the media should be rich, and the micronews should be real (not burger-throwing facebook bullshit)
Sutro: let me ask a question. What is the real value of recording all of our real-life actions as rich media and making this available to our friends?
I think the vast majority of the population would be quite uncomfortable with this. Not only does it eliminate privacy, it distracts from actually living life.
When I think about this vision, I’m reminded of tourists who are so busy recording their trip on camera so that they can watch it later that they forget to enjoy the actual trip.
I’m glad you wrote this entry because I’m not much a fan of Twitter (the communication medium) either. I may be of the only mind on this one, but I believe posting Twitter messages at all times of the day, announcing your thoughts and whereabouts and what you think is interesting (to you) is a bit arrogant. For the same reason I don’t write blog entries unless I have something interesting to write about, I don’t write Twitter posts unless I feel they’re clever or interesting to people other than myself. Just because you have a soap box doesn’t mean you should stand on top of it announcing what you had for breakfast.
>Sutro: let me ask a question. What is the real value of recording all of our real-life actions as rich media and making this available to our friends?
Many businesses are driven by 7 deadly sins. ( http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/faq/seven.html )Adult Friend Finder for example is driven by sin #5.
I think people like to show off (sin #1), so they will enjoy sharing some of these recordings. Like- check out, I just went to this expensive store an bough this jeans, or here is our charming wedding in a chalet in Napa, or here is our route in Big Sur.
But, it has to be
a) Effortless recording, not “twitting”.
b) each event should have “private” / “public” tag on it, much like Livejournal posts.
It’s true, you may not be narcissitic enough to participate in the self aware spectacle that is Twitter. That’s fine, I’m not either. But narcissism and obsession with celebrity, repugnant as they are, would appear to be converging in the form of a technology like Twitter. Now with just a few keystrokes anyone can enjoy the secret frisson of knowing they are being observed, perhaps by people they know, perhaps by others they don’t, and believe me, this is a powerful force.
For me, a key comment that you make is that Twitter reminds you of those tourists so concerned with recording their holiday that they spend little energy actually enjoying themselves while they are there. I think it’s an excellent analogy, and it’s also one that provides more evidence of why things like Twitter are here to stay. You and I mightn’t spend our holidays like this, but million of handycams sold, and billions of hours of material recorded in this fashion over the years can’t be ignored, can it?
Just because something is revolting does not mean it will not be successful: look at Britney Spears
I’d like to put forward myself as a case study of where Twitter is useful. First, some background information: I’m a 25-year-old Australian who lives in Japan, almost all of my friends are back in Australia and I no longer have the ability to hang out with them regularly.
For me, Twitter represents a useful tool in keeping up with the lives of my friends and providing cues I may wish to use to start a conversation (either by email, VOIP or old fashioned pen and paper). Perhaps this is just me, but the question, ‘Hey, I saw your tweet that you were pulling your hair out–what happened?’ is a lot more inviting and leads to a more involved conversation than ‘What did you do on the weekend?’ (which is likely to be returned with ‘Oh, not much.’).
In your example, Drama, the tweet that your friend was at that cafe would provide an opening for a real life conversation I would have at a later point. I agree it’s a poor substitute but I’m not sure why it needs to be. Is anyone suggesting we won’t need to converse because of Twitter?
I am in an unusual situation but one I think that is likely to become more common as society globalises and our friends are not necessarily the people that live on the same block as us. For people in this situation Twitter seems to me to be an aid to facilitating communication; not a means to conduct it.
For the most part, I agree with your post. If you put garbage into Twitter, you’ll get garbage out. However, I’ve been using Twitter to follow other people in the NYC tech scene. It’s useful when someone Tweets about a meetup they are going to becuase I might want to as well. If used as a professional tool, Twitter isn’t nearly as annoying as it sounds.
Btw, I love this quote “The Internet may be a series of tubes, but your life is more than just a log of events.”
Do I like it? No. Is it an unfortunate necessity in the tech climate right now? Pretty much. You need to follow the “in” crowd to get little scoops on what’s happening since they tend to Tweet everything from potty breaks to “Gee, anyone want a pre-alpha release of this cool tool so you can get the inside skinny?”
Since they still haven’t figured out how to monetize it, I’m on the fence for which company is going to take down an entire ecosystem first: Twitter or Facebook. Because it makes so much sense to build a business around another business that isn’t monetized.
I have been whining about this for a time now too, I don’t get Twitter, I don’t follow it (hey, I tried, it got on my nerves), and I don’t care about 98% of the posts on there. I was very disturbed to see this moving out of the “ahead at all costs” geek-group into more mainstream (Liz Ryan tweeting (ugh I hate that word too) for example).
I can see it being good for keeping plans when trying to coordinate a meeting/ event maybe.
I can understand Michael C’s example above, but I might add the flip - why not use your time more to focus on where you are and meeting people there, and using conventional communication (email, phone, gasp letter writing) to keep with more in-depth communication with your friends back home and take advantage of the opportunity you have to meet new folks and explore a foreign country. When I first moved to the US if I’d had email and all this instant connections (other than expensive phone calls) I might have missed meeting wonderful people because I chose to immerse myself into my local community.
I understand the importance of real, human interaction. My social life is extremely important. Although I do have a Twitter account, I’m not the type of user like you describe. I only update my status every couple of days or when something significant happens. Others may use it in different ways.
I understand that it is a form of “ego” blogging. But that’s the whole idea behind the system. The Tweets should only be important to real contacts. Blogging contacts and Internet friends just won’t give a s$.
My real friends would love to hear about my new Chevy Vega purchase or my “happy ending”
In any case, I appreciate your perspective.
Aidan’s right. It’s not a zero-sum game. The point of the service is that it takes like five seconds to use. Do you have a webcam that shows you what every Twitter user is doing the rest of the time? No? So you just made this shit up and wasted 1,000 words on it? I’m guessing that took you longer than five seconds, dog.
microblogs certainly have useful applications. I teach onLine and no other means is as convenient (to act as “social glue”). IM is too evanescent. Mails too one-to-one. Blogs too cumbersome, etc.
LAFD on Twitter is an excellent example of a public service.
Most tweets are pointless. Just don’t subscribe to their authors
Thanks for this great post. I also think that Twitter and most Web2.0 coolaids are trash.
And you made fun of Aidan Henry.
I have to add your blog to my AJAX RSS page!!
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I have to agree that Twitter is about 95% worthless noise, at least with the people I have on my contacts list. There are about 3 or 4 of them that post about 10 times a day with the most boring information. Things like “I’m doing 3 tons of laundry” or just quoting some random song lyrics that don’t really mean anything, but they just thought were cool. For example, today was typical, I came home and had 30 tweets in my twit messages and every single one was completely useless and wouldn’t be even good for a follow up for any conversation I would want to start to connect with them later. I mean w00h00, lets talk about laundry or the local cafe raising the price of a cup by 5 cents cause it’s so interesting. Most of these kinds of posts are self-pleasuring and I’m sure the people following them don’t want to see.
So, yeah, occasionally there is some good information like “this activity is happening” which is a bit better then the tweety twits talking about farting or bowel movements.
The activity tweets are good for a scene/clique group for people to find out about activities, but most of these are purely very casual acquaintance material. They’d bother to invite you directly if they really thought they wanted you there or wanted to be sure you got a message before the activity happened. Some kinds of tweets like “look at this news article” can be useful, also.
So, yeah, Twitter is sometimes useful, but the signal to noise ratio is outrageously bad, it fosters quantity over quality and encourages distraction and multitasking if you get it sent as SMS. Those are my main issues with twitter.
On the plus side, you’ll soon learn which of your friends are self-involved and spew so much garbage that you’ll want to unfollow or block their Tweets very quickly.