I’m probably not even the first person to make such an unoriginal observation. And I may eat my words in a matter of months (because as a compulsive talker/writer I will admit it is DEFINITELY tempting to start twittering).
Nevertheless, in our attention-deficit-disordered society, the LAST thing we need is a 140-character, constantly opening and closing window on the fascinations, fetishes and flushable nonsense of politicians, Shaquille O’Neal, or any old twenty-year-old with a camera phone. Tweets are the equivalent of used electronic Kleenex — unless there’s blood in there, I don’t want to see it.
Stephen Colbert interviewed the Twitter co-founder on his show last week, and while it seems tolerable as a business and/or technical model, Twitter still strikes me as the ultimate in short-term, quickly-forgotten, why-bother communication methods. Plus it’s probably being used most by people who just want to attract attention for all the wrong reasons, who are providing a live feed of utter verbal junk food to a population already addicted to junk.
I currently have just a couple of friends who are twittering, such as the renowned wit and tv critic Aaron Barnhart of TVbarn.com and the Kansas City Star newspaper. But in contrast to the new breed of twits, I trust the “pros” to twitter well, for good reasons:
- primarily because they actually have something meaningful to say, because it is their JOB to say it, and because they really can publish something useful in a short burst — plus with a certain amount of restraint in terms of quantity of tweets, and some careful thought about whether their audience will actually care about the tweet subject.
- because they’re twittering in a non-narcissistic, unselfish mode, and participating in a community, instead of trying to be the bright, ironic, silly sun which a bunch of even sillier planets are supposed to revolve around by following their tweets.
My wife — who watches very little tv, and does even less random websurfing or participating in cultural fads — asked me the other night if I knew anything about Twitter. The fact that Twitter had even made it onto her trustworthy radar — a very grounded, academic, highly-screened radar — tells me that the Twitter Monster is growing like a deadly mold on a useless New Orleans FEMA trailer, and soon will be too large to be killed by conventional means.
Meanwhile, my WordPress blog-hosting service offered this week to “Bring Twitter to Your Blog”. It strikes me as the equivalent to bringing a cute new little Irish Wolfhound puppy home, only to have it pee on my furniture for the next nine months, and after that it gets as big as a horse, consuming two twenty-pound bags of my mental dog food per week.
I can’t even keep the random detritus and banal activities of my OWN mind and life straight! How can I possibly be bothered with people wanting to tell me what restaurant they’re at right now, and how the waiter responded to their “fly in my soup” joke?!
Here’s the test: When my sixty-six-year-old mother starts twittering (I give her about five years… she’s sharp but not that sharp…), then I will know it is time for me to join the club, and stop trying to write long-form, thoughtful prose. It is at that point that I will get a twitter account, and begin my slow slide into oblivion, where all anyone ever says to each other comes out in two-sentence bursts, using texter’s shorthand and barely a thimblefull of wit or real critical thinking.
Media critic Marshall McLuhan once famolusly wrote: the medium is the message. Suddenly, however, the message is nothing more than flaky crap like this:
“I’m in a meeting and I’m bored. So here’s a link to a photo of my ingrown toenail. Weird, huh?”