06 May 2009

Random Observation: Twitter

"Do you "tweet"?"

"What, you mean like a bird?"

"No, are you on Twitter?"

You have to be very careful about how you answer this question. Seems like Twitter is all the rage. In fact, I think that the main reason Facebook recently changed to its latest iteration is due in large part to the defection of loyal Facebookers to Twitter. By the way, if you don't know what Twitter is by now, I don't think you are going to be cool or savvy enough to "tweet".

But I have one question about Twitter. What is it really for? According to their website:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Hmm. I don't know about you, but I'm comfortable not knowing what my friends, family, and especially my co-workers are doing or thinking every minute of the day. I don't need them "tweeting" constantly. Don't we get enough random life updates on Facebook these days?

But in a larger perspective, isn't Twitter just reflecting the society we've evolved into? We are a world of instant gratification, headlines, short attention spans, and the dreaded "so five minutes ago". Twitter reflects and encapsulates this social evolution perfectly. But, does this signal social progress or just technical gadgetry?

The unfortunate thing about Twitter is that it serves as a replacement for conversation. It isolates us from other human contact. Can you share in someone's emotions via Twitter? Can you convey the true spirit of your thoughts with Twitter? It's no wonder that the social and communication skills of our society are eroding as people communicate in short, grammatically and spelling-challenged "tweets". And this passes for communication. Just ask the nearest teacher.

I asked my brother once why he texted so much instead of just calling the other person. He said he could just text something short and not have to engage in a longer conversation. I can see his point, but then why have the text-based “conversation”?

With this advance of technology, it shows that people are becoming more detached from one another. This is straining our ability to communicate information of value, and more importantly it is communicating something about our values. As we seek to live the fast-paced lifestyle and keep others at a "tweets" distance, how are we to expected to grow socially instead of regressing because we fail to properly communicate?

I've had the benefit of living across generations. I've been through the "play outside until the streetlights come on" and then go home and change the TV channel by physically touching the knob on the TV set. I've also seen the internet come of age at a time when some people have known virtually no other existence. Ironically, many urban developers today seek to bring back those traditional neighborhoods like our parents and grandparents grew up in. But why? Are they expecting a return to traditional neighborhood values? I doubt it is their primary objective.

And now we have Twitter. I suppose it can have some social benefits. But from direct experience, the ability to communicate properly in both oral and written means is becoming a less recognized and valued skill. I fear there will come a day where people who make decisions about the importance of communication are not going to be able to articulate it very well. But perhaps they’ll just “tweet” it instead…


savagevol57@yahoo.com said...

ok, brother....the point of texting is to get a short sweet bit of info across without all the hoop-la that usually goes along with someone you don't want to have an extremely long conversation with.....make sense? not trying to cut you off.....

and the world you are describing comes directly from the recent movie WALL-E....where everyone sits in a motorized chair, gets fat as all get out.....and does everything with the touch of a button or click of a mouse........

is "1984" lacking in the fact that it isn't big brother we have to worry about, but only ourselves?

Lang Wiseman said...

love your blog. keep up the good work. i linked to your post today on my blog.

my $.02 as you say: i worry about the social implications of twitter/facebook as you do, but for different reasons. my concern is about the "crowd-out" or "attention-deficit" effects.

at least for me, twitter/fb hasn't REPLACED conversation that i would've otherwise had. so i don't think it really hinders my communication or connection with family and close friends -- at least directly anyway.

to the contrary, i think twitter/fb etc. allows me to have communication (albeit snippets of communication) with people i wouldn't ordinarily keep up with at all. and that's a good thing, i think. take you, for example. if not for fb, i likely would've never re-connected with you inasmuch as you're down in LA and all.

my fear is that all of the digital communication etc. crowds out other worthwhile endeavors indeed, it's quite addicting and even time consuming. and i worry that it contributes greatly to my already-active sense/expectation of needing it "now, now, now."

my $.02.

Rusty said...

Thanks for the $.02. I agree, it does have some positives, but it does feed the beast. I have some additional thoughts on the ADD/ADHD thing and even the overmedication of society - being one implication. But I suppose I'll wait for a good "trigger" for that post. I did link your blog as one of my regular reads. Hope that's okay. I post my address various places to generate traffic...

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