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Why I don't think Twitter is the greatest thing in the world

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twitter-logo.jpgIf you've somehow missed the latest technological phenomenon to assail the American populace -- Twitter -- you must have been living under a rock. And if you are living under a rock, you can rest assured that people want to hear about every little detail on the aforementioned social network.

Not content with traditional forms of communication like the telephone call, text message and e-mail, we've become awash in 140-character updates on the micro-blogging platform. Twitter's intended goal, if I can hypothesize here, is to share real-time updates while continually shrinking the world - bringing everyone together.

On paper, it doesn't seem like there'd be anything wrong with this. But, Twitter doesn't exist on paper. It exists both in the real and virtual world - two realms that can sometimes breed awkwardness when they meet.
 A few days ago, my colleague Neil Steinberg voiced the opinion of many who find this whole communication-overload just a little bit silly. Steinberg says that no one is so interesting that he'd follow them on twitter. He wonders what value hearing about a friend's excruciating decision between skim and 2 percent milk has in the long run. In short, do we - and should we care - about the multitude of minutiae that constitutes 95 percent of our lives and the lives of others?

While it'd be easy for the younger generation to dismiss his remarks as an antiquated view from someone who is "out of touch", it's equally "out of touch" to assume that everyone who is young is completely atwitter over twitter.

You see, despite being exactly the type of person the micro-blogging platform is supposed to appeal to, the whole Twitter phenomenon is something that I have no interest in getting caught up in - for the reasons Steinberg gave and so many others.

I'm 25 years old, an online journalist and blogger, a frequent Facebook user, a chronic text-messager, and most importantly, receptive to change. Despite all of this, the concept of inundating myself with extraneous real-time updates from celebrities and friends makes about as much sense as Ashton Kutcher's contrived Twitter war with news giant CNN.

I'll readily admit that much like many others in my generation, my level of self-absorption is embarrassing. Whether it be nature or nurture, the 80's babies have developed into a group that finds it necessary to share their entire lives in electronic form. This explains some of appeal. But, if we were to step away from the keyboards and touch-pads we need so mightily, we might face a pretty humbling reality.

Maybe we're not that interesting, after all.

Maybe we're overstating our importance.

Maybe it's time to say "enough."

In all reality, unless you are providing something like news or are a celebrity, why should I care -- or others care -- what you have to say? This sounds harsh, but perhaps it's the time to look ourselves in the mirror and accept that, outside of our loved ones, people aren't hanging on the news that we've purchased new sneakers or found a hilarious link that shows a bunny dancing to Foghat's "Slow Ride."

dancing-bunny.jpgAnd that's okay.

It really is.

Consider it the natural order of things.

Just because the technology exists, doesn't mean that it's great technology or that it even has an overarching practical use. The paper, naturally, has an account that I use to get breaking news out immediately or to highlight particularly compelling blogs and articles. Obviously, I see the value in this. It's the jumbled conglomeration of Twitter users just mindlessly recounting the everyday occurrences of their lives that leaves me scratching my head.

My life is uneventful enough without the non-news of other people's.

Far be it for me to stand in the way of progress, but when the issue is really examined, is Twitter progress? Does it push our society forward in the right direction? Or is it becoming the global marketplace for news not fit to print, a meeting place for those with nothing to meet about?

And yet, it seems we have no choice but to assimilate to this brave new world. As the technological curve begins to rise at an exponential rate, everyone is afraid of being left behind. It's because of this that we jump into these trends headfirst, without really analyzing them.

So, maybe it's time to think about where all of this is going to take us.

Then again, maybe I'm the one living under a rock.

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16 Comments

You may be living under a rock, but that may be where the only sane people who want to avoid Twitter are going to be. I like this blog that analyzes, much like you, the needlessness of Twitter.

http://www.twitterbacklash.com

I think as more people use Twitter, more will realize the waste of time that it is.

You may not be living under a rock, but I dare suggest you're probably observing the wrong people.

Twitter is absolutely whatever you make it, and what you make it is almost wholly based upon what you consider important and therefore which 'network' you plug yourself into.

Most, if not all newcomers to the medium flail away for a few weeks or months before they get the lay of the land, but taking your cues from any report you see in the media is certainly a recipe for failure. The vast majority of media outlets still doesn't understand Twitter — and really don't care to; they seem only to be interested in the buzz it has created because that's 'news.' That fact is exacerbated by their celebration of Pop Media/Celebrity Twitter users who may or may not actually understand it themselves (but think they do).

Twitter is about adding value to and empowering communication. It's about getting all sides of a story, and most importantly, its about transparency and being real on an interpersonal basis that shatters the barriers between classes, business affiliations, and the societal walls we all throw up around ourselves on a daily basis.

I know that may sound all high-handed and grand, but talk to the right folks and you'll see that they pretty much all agree about one thing: Twitter connects people in a multitude of scenarios they would have never before heard from or heard of. That in of itself makes it invaluable as not only an interpersonal tool, but also a potential breakthrough for business-to-customer relationships. The latter part is already happening in thousands of businesses who are already on Twitter, and many more, once they get the hang of the new way of thinking that they must embrace in order to succeed there.

No, everyone might not be all that interesting, but each and every one of us is important in his or her own way. Twitter gives everyone a platform that can connect them to something more wonderful than they could ever even touch on their own.

It may not be "the greatest thing in the world," but it ain't chopped liver, 'neither.

A.J.'s comments are pretty much exactly the counter-argument I was looking for. I just don't know if the vast majority of people are ever going to reach that type of optimization.

Twitter can be a great tool for ambient communication and conversation among friends. It can expose people to interesting new ideas and resources. It can accelerate the connection of disparate groups around topics of mutual interest. And it can be a colossal time-wasting, spammy, free-for-all. A lot has to do with how you use it, what you expect from it, and how selective you are in your following. I believe that to get the most benefit you should have a good sense of what you find to be of relevance to you (no one can answer this for you, but you) and then seek people and tools to keep steering yourself toward relevance. I think Twitter can be one of those tools.

"He wonders what value hearing about a friend's excruciating decision between skim and 2 percent milk has in the long run. In short, do we - and should we care - about the multitude of minutiae that constitutes 95 percent of our lives and the lives of others?"

I know you're masking your strawman argument by attributing it to someone else, but it's the central assumption of your article, and it's laughable. If you think following Ashton Kutcher or hearing about daily minutiae is the only demonstrable power of Twitter, you've completely missed the point. Those conversations about 2% vs skim only crop up amongst communities that care, and per that assumption, the platform is useful. If your someone you follow posts inane stuff, un-follow them.

Most of my friends couldn't care about milk either way, but who are we to judge a community of IBS sufferers for whom milk or wheat is an excruciating decision? The secret to Twitter is not to confuse your terrestrial network with the virtual community this affords. Find the people and ideas you care about and follow those conversations. Leave the rest of them alone - Ashton Kutcher can waste time tweeting them if he's got so much of it.

JFB

Just so you know, were it not for Twitter, I wouldn't have made my way to this very article (you were linked to a post). I think you may want to consider that you've missed something, go back, and take another look. It also seems to me that it's the "in" thing these days to talk about why Twitter isn't "all that" just as it's growing exponentially. It's become a common yet rather silly position to take...very 80s...

Unfortunately, Kyle, the vast majority of people are never going to 'get' Twitter totally at this point; it's just not in their wheelhouse. Unless people are already involved with and understand social media, the whole concept is just too foreign to most. And just because someone is on Twitter or has a Facebook page doesn't mean they understand the tennants of social media. Heck, I've been blogging for five years and its only been in the in the past six months, after reading and listening to a lot of very smart people, that the lighbulb has come on for me.

That's why its actually more damaging than helpful to the cause when the media gloms onto the 'story' of Ashton & Demi, or Oprah being on Twitter. It sends that "Oh, let's go do that 'cuz it's cool" message to people who have no concept of what the medium is about. Then you end up with this flurry of stories that we've seen lately about how fast folks are dropping Twitter, as if that's Twitter's fault; it may not be an acquired taste, but it does take time to appreciate and to understand. You can't throw the baby out with the bathwater, folks.

I honestly don't know where it goes from here, but I do know that the mainstream media isn't helping (present company excepted of course...). :)

As traditional newspapers are dying, smart folks are considering: Will Twitter be the new distribution mechanism for individually published news/content?

That's why I think it's interesting ..

When it evolves beyond "did you drink 2% or skim" ... to "here's what I think you need to know about the world right now" ...

Solving distribution challenges(too much/too little noise/meaning) is the next hurdle ..

Agree with all of it from this perspective, although like anything in life, it is what you make it. You can always choose to "follow" people from whom you can learn or who offer interesting and valuable insights and/or information. No one says you have to “sign up” for crap. Then instead of a useless waste of time, Twitter can be just one more tool integrated into our lives that helps expands our views and/or makes us think.

I must admit that I am on the fence with this. I understand that the random updates can be seen as meaningless to most (myself included). However, I have then found the use of direct messaging to be no less than that of Yahoo! IM, AIM, GoogleTalk, or any other mean of Instant Messaging. Now, I have not gone so far as to have them linked with my mobile device because I seriously do not feel the need to follow everyone's breakfast preference.

Again, I can understand both sides of the argument. In the celebrity use defense, many of them use social networking sites to promote charity and/or other causes. They have also been useful in informing about political issues and how to make my voice heard.

It's not all simply about Ben Stiller having breakfast in bed...

I still enjoy twitter... but I understand.

Hmmm, seems I recall a lot of journalist and people saying the same thing about blogs & bloggers a few years ago.

Ironic, no?

@MrBrownThumb

I concede the point that Twitter is what you make of it, just like any other tool. I just worry that most aren't able or willing to sift through the filler to use it in the best way.

Twitter does not have to be "a meeting place for those with nothing to meet about." By using isayusay, one can quickly add and publish slides, invites, polls and posts to Twitter to become the conversation piece.

While I agree that if you use the 'official' version of twitter, you may get bogged down in lots of filler (looking at you john mayer), but try using tweetdeck or one of the other interfaces out there, and you'll find twitter life so much easier. And with most things, easier often translates to better user adoption.

Come on, you know you want to follow Barbara Walters....
www.getback.com/gallery/live-long-and-twitter/2987329

We have figured out a way to monitize twitter. We pull all our Real Estate Agents Tweets onto our HomePage...

Check out our website...

www.phoenixpowersearch.com

You just have to get creative my friend.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyle Koster published on May 4, 2009 9:03 AM.

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