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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