Parks Associates Blog

Friday, August 07, 2009

Why I Hate Twitter

NOTE: This does not reflect the opinions of Parks Associates. Just my personal musings. As a communications tool, there is no question that Twitter can have enormous value. Look at how protestors in Iran were able to get their message out to the world. Heck, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a proponent of the short messaging service's ability to get emergency alerts and updates out to people in an efficient manner. However, my jaw was this close to dropping as I read the article in today’s Wall Street Journal regarding the Twitter outage yesterday. So, I get the benefit...sort of. We live in a world where information moves very quickly, and efficiency in dissemination is important. Shoot, I've probably lost a few of you already because this paragraph is too dense.

But, man, does Twitter embody some highly-disturbing attributes (again, my opinion).

  • Celebrity worship;
  • The notion of false-urgency, where there are no filters for any and all information, and everything becomes a reaction to life's events with little time for reflection thereof;
  • Narcissim; and
  • Treating silence as an enemy, where we are uncomfortable in mere thought and consideration. Why must we feel compelled to comment on everything at everytime? Why do I check my e-mail at 5:30 in the morning before breakfast? Why is the Blackberry constantly buzzing (and drawing my attention)? Why can't we simply absorb information, think through it critically, and then act?
I hope that the world still has room for thoughtful oratory and writing, newspapers, and considerate debate. I hope that we still see value in the time and effort it takes to observe, think, and act. I hope that Twitter is not the beginning of the end for Western Civilization. See the quotes from the Journal and my commentary:

WSJ: MC Hammer was in the middle of an interview early Thursday morning when he encountered the unimaginable: life without Twitter.

After 10 minutes of trying to check messages from his 1.2 million followers on the site, the 1980s rapper known for his trademark balloon pants realized that the social-networking service had gone down.

"My baby wasn't acting right. Did I notice it was out? That would be the equivalent to asking, did you notice you woke up?" says Mr. Hammer, whose given name is Stanley Burrell. "My immediate thought was, 'There is no replacing this platform...I couldn't satisfy the need to communicate.'"

Kurt: So, I guess if you’re a B-list celebrity whose career has jumped the shark, Twitter is your inexpensive path back to the public’s consciousness. A valuable marketing tool, no doubt. Hammer needs all the revenues he can get. So, Twitter can help Hammer. But, was the world worse off with a few minutes of Hammer Time being off the grid? Hmmmm…the sun was shining pretty brightly today. I heard birds singing. The Earth’s rotation continues. We’re okay.

WSJ: Thursday's outage foiled Ian Schafer, the CEO of Deep Focus interactive ad agency in New York. Mr. Schafer, who prides himself on live-tweeting conferences and events to his nearly 5,000 followers, was preparing to live-tweet from a bris, a Jewish circumcision rite, for two baby boys.

Kurt: Ah, yes…live play-by-play and color analysis of a bris. I’ve heard of Twitter being used in hospital operating rooms to keep the family and friends of a patient informed, but maybe we’ll move it to less-intrusive procedures.

WSJ: On the way to his car in the morning, Mr. Schafer kept trying to get on Twitter from his iPhone, but figured his Web access was down. When he arrived at the ceremony, he tried again. His tweet -- "I'm at a bris. Not mine" -- took 45 minutes to crawl through. The next missive -- "In case you were wondering, a bris of twin boys happens one at a time" -- took another hour.

Kurt: Interesting information – I did not know this. But did I need it in real time?

WSJ: So he gave up. He posted a few photos of the food on his Facebook page and called it a day.

Kurt: Food – the best part of any church or religious event. Attend a Lutheran potluck. You’ll know what I’m talking about. Good for you for giving up, though. The food report can wait...really.

Kurt: The first two examples are merely humorous. Now, we're getting to jaw-dropping time.

WSJ: Washington journalist Ana Marie Cox, who has posted roughly 6,500 tweets, was unable to tell her nearly 952,000 followers that she purchased a new pair of jeans because of Thursday's outage. Ms. Cox often shares her choice of attire with a tweet dubbed "pants status."

Kurt: Ummm...okay

WSJ: "Strangely, I've found that the world has continued to exist without me having shared that," says Ms. Cox, a national correspondent for Air America and a contributing editor at Playboy.

Kurt: I am not sure how we survived, but by golly, we pulled through.

Kurt: But we’re getting to the best part…

WSJ: But she did get to leave a good impression with a lunch date. "This person probably thinks I'm very focused and polite," Ms. Cox says. Had Twitter been functioning, she says she would've been tweeting throughout the meal. "I would have come off like I usually do," Ms. Cox says, "which is obviously rude and insensitive."

Kurt: This was a date? Where typically one person attempts to get to know another person through ... uh ... conversation? Since you clearly have no interest in these types of personal interactions, you could really save yourself some money and take just you and your smartphone out to eat, you know.

Another took Copernicus far less time to figure out that the Earth revolves around the sun than it will ever take the human race to figure out that the same does not apply to them.

Kurt: And finally, somebody with whom I symphathize, because I get this. But still...

WSJ: Other Twitter addicts were grateful to have a few extra minutes tacked onto their day. "The truth of the matter is, I got back 10 minutes of my morning -- not to have to think of something interesting to twitter which is so damn hard at 5 a.m." says Richard Rosenblatt, CEO of Demand Media, a digital-media company.

Kurt: Why, may I ask, why? A compulsion to Tweet every day? At 5 a.m.? Regardless of whether you have anything interesting to say or not? How is this helpful to you or the world? Can't we wait until there is something truly interesting to say? Sheesh.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on the money... thank you for writing this. I started an account and promptly stopped using it as well as other aspects of the web (facebook) on a daily basis because it made me... well... depressed! And for many of the reasons that you state. In fact, I've found just staying offline altogether improves my ability to think and react to things and also to just ENJOY LIFE. Commenting on message boards (I say this fully aware that I'm doing it right now) and spewing opinions on the net to some 'alexa ranked' audience has begun to strike me as shouting into a black hole. Heck even a lot of blogging has begun to strike me as very self-important and what's more, you can go out into the world and ask many random people if they're aware of this or that website, youtube video, blog entry, etc., and find that many, many people are completely unaware of even those items that have been 'dugg' up to the top of the heap or videos that were viewed millions upon millions of times. If it doesn't make their local news, they have no idea... and are better off for it, I think. I've begun to believe that the majority of the traffic on the web (and with it, the self-importance) comes from a smaller group of people than I had ever previously imagined. I think that most of the people with sense quickly find something 'off' about spending so much time on the web or realize the unhealthy narcissism inherent (you can't help it... seriously) in sites like facebook or twitter and quickly tune out and pick up a book or go for a walk.

10:45 PM  

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