Sunday, April 3, 2011

I'm Not Following You

Call me a Luddite, but I admit it - I still don't get it.  Where is the appeal, the reason, the need for Twitter in the average person's life?

I'm not saying Twitter shouldn't exist (although, if it didn't, I'm convinced no one would be very greatly inconvenienced), but I remain blissfully unaware of its relevance even to 21st-century life.

Now, I can see how it could be useful in a few niche environments - for someone, say, in the news and/or journalism game (and let's not conflate the two), especially in these days of the subdivided 24-hour news cycle.  Everything's happening all at once, everywhere, and it does allow a fast, friendly means to get information out quickly and succinctly, and is even, apparently, a great method of organizing a revolution.  (It's also an equally fabulous medium for transmitting misinformation at the speed of light, since, let's face it, by the time your correction/retraction has been tweeted, the original item has gone around the world about 14 times, and is, by it's very ubiquity, "true".)

The very speed which is one of Twitter's advantages is, ironically, one of its downfalls.  The daily (hourly, every other second) inundation of data which it permits also makes it difficult to cut through the noise to the significant facts.  There are some things which are better considered at leisure, and even blogs can be mulled over and digested in a quiet moment at the end of the day, not requiring the immediate attention which Twitter's endless squawking demands.

It seems to me, however, that Twitter is being not merely used by the general public, but touted as The Greatest Communication Medium Ever Invented.  (Umm, it's not.)  Companies are falling over themselves to develop 'social media' strategies, forgetting that the first rule of any communication should be, must be: know your audience.  For some, it makes perfect sense, but: if the people you're trying to talk to don't get their information from smartphones, why are you worried about whether or not your Tweets are attracting followers?

On the other hand, the Twitterati have rather painfully (and occasionally amusingly) illustrated that some people can't formulate a coherent thought even in as little as 140 characters.  What price can we put on the very public humiliation of egotistical celebrities, be they actors, sports figures, or politicians?

There's the strange distortion, too, for those who think that by following a movie star or baseball player (assuming it is them and not their personal assistant actually composing the Tweets) they are actually closer to that person, that they have a relationship with them, that they know them.  This borders on the creepy.  But it's not surprising, really, in a world where, in some fields of endeavour, people are brands.

Twittermania will, I suspect, blow up rather suddenly when a sizable proportion of the people currently using it realize that it's contributing, well, nothing, to their quality of life or business success, and that it has become, in fact, a medium that primarily feeds itself.  It won't disappear, but it will diminish until its scale reflects the population that actually enjoys a benefit from its existence.  Then, at least, we'll finally know what it's really good for - and it will be good for something.  It will not, however, be good for everything.

But, let's be clear: I don't care what you had for breakfast; I'm not particularly interested in where you are RIGHT NOW!; and I have never, under any circumstances, given even the smallest fraction of a damn about Ashton Kutcher.  Go where you will - but I'm not following.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. I understand also why some may use and find twitter helpful, but with Facebook and blogs I just don't see the need to know what everyone is doing every second of their day, nor do I want to feel like I somehow have to report on everything I'm doing. Isn't that part of the fun of being an adult? Not having to report in to anyone?! : ) Sorry I took so long to visit your blog! Roxanne Lutz