Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 6, 2009

Twitter Is For Twits

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 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?”


  1. Well Put!

  2. Thank you, kyriakonie. (Speaking of two-word “tweets” or short comments that actually are worthwhile… “Well put” and “thank you” are among the few I actually DO advocate.)

  3. You’re welcome (is this two word phrase advocated? haha).

  4. I went to see about getting a twitter account but I still DON’T understand how twitter works. Facebook is bad enough. I haven’t gotten the account yet. Maybe never.

  5. wow.. it’s a great post, i was looking for this, thank you for the information

  6. I share your feelings on the demise of critical thought, however, by devoting blog entries to discussing the social implications of a useless technology you feed the fire. No press is bad press. This continues because people that oppose it “sign up to look at all the retards” Be silent, be effective.

    • Well said. I am chastised and should know better. Though upon further review and after seeing other comments, I should point out that your use of the word ‘retards’ is offensive, and not at all in the spirit of my original post. I’m simply of the opinion that we are all sometimes tempted to be twits (shallow, silly, self-involved people). Therefore we don’t need any help becoming moreso.

  7. I just felt like commenting. I do agree with your stance completely.

  8. I couldn’t disagree more with the blog post and many of the comments. Twitter’s demographic is computer literate 45 – 54 yr olds with boat loads of resources and experience willing to share.

    While there is a small contingent of young adults and MLM’ers trying to build followers for profit, the majority of the connections I’ve made are quality individuals in a number of disparate areas and topics. Interests and titles range from gardeners and artists to CEO’s and Vice Presidents of multi-million dollar international companies (not just posers, I’ve met them in person).

    I’m a Twitterer, and I hold a BA and an MBA so hardly consider it a place for ‘retards’. By the way, that’s quite an offensive and politically incorrect term to use.

    Twitter is just another form of and forum for communication, not unlike a blog post which is, in fact, just a shortened version of what used to be considered a ‘normal’ article. It’s hard to believe bloggers who took advantage of the new online form of self-expression and nouveau-journalism, can’t see the value in a yet another, more abbreviated form of dialog and interaction.

    I do agree with one point. “The medium is the message” and from my point of view, the message is crystal clear, informational and quite valuable, especially from a marketing perspective.

    I respect your opinion, but find it short sighted. but, each to his own, that just leaves more opportunity for me to connect and share.

    • are you joking….twitter is full of 45 to 54 year old snake oil salesmen trying to peddle their useless wares. so called guru seo programs! they are there to try and suck the money out of the system. see anything usefull on twitter for free? i think not. twitter is useless and full of garbage…YUK!!!!!

  9. Thank you, Diane. As you say, to each his or her own, and you do make some valid points.

    First things first: it was a commenter, not me, who used the word ‘retard’. I should have disavowed it, as I did think the tone was too harsh, but I did not disavow it. Until now…

    Additionally, I really question your idea that Twitter’s target market is 45-54 year-olds. (My bet is that they’re targeting 18-35’s, like all the other marketing efforts out there. Oldsters like you and me are just gravy.) Yes, I recognize tha many intelligent professionals are twittering. And I also assume that the 45-54 age group does not take as much time acting like “fanboys” or blithely and randomly bouncing around online, but instead has “a life”. Thus each “busy” demographic in its own way has only two minutes or less to put a Tweet out, as they’re rushing on toward the next thing in their life.

    But that is my point: the relationships and ultra-temporary communication most likely have less value by virtue of less thought or time having been put into them. I’m a less is more guy.

    Yes, good ideas, networks and relationships can emerge. But the sum total of the Twitterverse is still looking pretty addictive and surface-y, to me. There’s not enough soul to it. But I speak here as a writer and creative professional, not a marketing and networking guru. So maybe my distrust of the Twitter medium is similar to actors’ and directors’ distrust of “reality television”. It’s got potential and it’s definitely democratic, but so much of it is weak.

    And when Twitter as a host company starts adding ads or “profit streams” to their product in a year or two (the co-founder said they would… on Colbert Report), I wonder if there will be a big public outcry or slow abandonment of the Twitterful life. Maybe not, but I still think it smacks of a popular but silly fad. As was once said of California by an Eastern intellectual, can also be said of Twitter: “there’s no THERE there”.

  10. Okay, it’s now almost a year later, and as predicted, the Twitterverse is still growing steadily so far. And this blog post is still getting lots of hits. Still, I stand by my original post, and will only be tweeting if I’m at gunpoint.

  11. Twitter sucks. It’s for conformists

  12. loved the comments…i hate twitter. twitter is designed as a place to speak…not as a place to be heard. reminds me of a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it. Twitter is awesome if you truly enjoy talking to your self in the midst of being bombarded with tweets which are the equivalent of useless noise.

    ken anderson

  13. Coming up on two years soon and your blog still rocks.
    The digital datastream deluge:
    The internet has made access to anything an instant reality.
    People want to participate.
    Instant communication full of billions of “little nothings”.
    Pavlovian Masters: Answer that device!
    Lives multiplexed to include new dimensions of existence.
    Quick dips into other people’s lives driven by the impulse to just blurt out or consume the current thought.
    Business has climbed on board to find and keep consumers.
    Mostly: intrusive and relentlessly meaningless.
    And yet:
    Recent revolutions in dictatorships overseas were sparked and nurtured by these social sites.
    Currently held conclusion:
    Yes, “The Medium is the Message”
    But, “Sometimes, the Message is Important”
    Future Consideration: Democracy everywhere. All the people of the world free to share meaningless messages.

    • Thanks, Jorge. Or should I say “Thx”?

      See, I know textspeak, I just choose to use complete words, like the vintner choosing his grapes carefully.

      BTW, for those who’ve read this far, you may also find a later post of mine about facebook to be relevant as well. FB is looking more Twitterlike every day, but I think still has some distinct advantages. Here’s the link:

      Thanks all for your feedback. It’s creating a community unto itself!

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