no more twitter puns


These days you can't seem to avoid conversations about twitter. These conversations leave me with flashes of quincy, as I had the same experience with facebook and to a lesser extent flickr and gmail (although most people I knew seemed less interested in talking about the goog's improvements to email storage and functionality - and even less people in my immediate vicinity wanted to wax fantastical about the wonders of posting photos online). There's no escaping talking about new media. But I won't pretend that I'm not a willing participant. If I was a big fan of bread and butter I might say that this kind of conversation is just like that (that being bread and butter) to me. So, how could I resist an article that presented introductory explorations of the theoretical depths of twitter? It was almost too GOOD to be true (to think I promised no more puns).

I went to a party on the weekend that was full of avid twitters. Inevitably, after guests had lost interest in talking about renovations, conversation moved in the general direction of twitter. There were the usual jokes about twits and twats... and then of course a lot of eyelash fluttering and glassy eyed faraway looks as people schemed about ways to use twitter to further their own agendas (this of course made me roll my eyes, but reluctantly because I can't ignore the influence of the twitter mob - although that influence is frightening). However something did pique my interest... at one point there was an interesting comment about the difficulty of using twitter as a conversation tool. A woman had been trying to contact her rep to complain about some sort of signage problem. But because of the arbitrary character limit on tweets and the limited context one can provide in a post of that length, it had taken nearly eight back and forth messages to communicate the problem. Whether or not the problem was 'solved' is another issue. I wonder, why would this woman use twitter to communicate this problem when an email would have been much more effective? Clearly, the attempt to have a conversation about this issue using just twitter was frustrating and not effective. While contemplating these questions an imaginary light bulb lit up over my head and I wanted so very badly to discuss the idea below (from the GOOD post I linked to above).
Twitter does not encourage conversation or dialogue between Twitterers. It is too real-time and asynchronous for that. Instead, it encourages individual Twitterers to have conversations inside their heads about the various tweets and links they read. One culls from this cacophony an interior dialogue (or, perhaps, a multiply-voiced monologue) that generates new ideas, which one can then add to the mix by tweeting again. Thus knowledge accrues, but not through a back-and-forth exchange.
In the summary of the piece, the author goes on to describe the twitter experience as "many arrows pointing one across (not up or down) to the ideas of others, cross-fertilization, and forced attention to the composition of sentences." I think this is brilliant. It identifies the limitations of twitter - where one must consider form and function as one element. I wish all conversation about twitter was like this. Except it wasn't. The debate only existed in my head. I didn't wish to frighten anyone with my heady notions about communication. Not on first meeting anyhow.


  1. Omg, did I miss or just manage to tune out the twitter talk completely? I'm not on it. I'm not on facebook either. I should totally tell you about how defensive people get when I tell them my reasons for abstaining from facebook!

    In short, I really value sincerity and genuine exchanges with other people. I feel as though things like twitter and facebook cause me to start judging people... beyond how they simply butcher language.

    In any case, I'm an angry enough person at the world. I don't need more reasons to hate people:) I hear, however, that most people who tweet and facebook don't suffer from the same paralyzing alienation that I do when using these mediums. It's probably just me.

  2. Your comment reminds of the article I just read about Atom Egoyan where he said, “I don’t think you can find catharsis through the internet.”

    I am fascinated by all the new communication tools that are available to us now, but I don't think it makes sense to try to replace face-to-face human interaction with a series of trivial posts on fb or twitter. It's interesting how the lines are blurring... like how we spend a lot of our time talking about what we're doing online and how getting together in person can be such a novelty. It's sad really.