Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Twitter isn’t

Or, why the Twittersphere is nothing to be feared

Much has been written about the booming popularity of Twitter. Some writers are even now trying to claim some cool, deep-thought cache by professing to being embarrassed by their involvement with Twitter.

For a shining example of this you need only read Virginia Heffernan’s
Let Them Eat Tweets: Why Twitter Is A Trap in the The New York Times Magazine of April 19.

So, as Twitter applications breed faster than rabbits and Big Media falls all over itself to mention Twitter at least once an hour and even La Diva Oprah has blessed the Twittersphere with her presence you have to wonder why some writers are rushing to distance themselves from Twitter.

Is it fear? (If all these amateurs keep writing what’s a pro to do?) Maybe it’s jealousy? (Not enough people are paying attention to me)

I really can’t begin to understand the visceral forces at work, but in response to Ms. Heffernan’s cry for help (for that is surely what it was) I humbly offer:

What Twitter IS:

A simple means of connecting. Ms. Heffernan lists “connections” such as the Internet, Skype and texting before saying “Only the poor — defined broadly as those without better options — are obsessed with their connections.” She seems mortified with the most basic human desire for connectivity making us seem “poor.” Really? I think our longing for connections is what makes us richly human and Twitter makes this connecting easier than ever.

A way to add value to our lives. This is clearly not understood by Ms. Heffernan who confesses: “I myself mostly post links to this column, hoping that the self-promotion is transparent enough that people can easily ignore a link or click it if they’re curious.” Surely there are other things of value our fearless writer might share. Look, if I start following someone on Twitter who only uses it for self-promotion, it’s very simple: I STOP following them.

A way to share the human experience. If you’re on Twitter you want something … and maybe you can provide or share something. Not as Ms. Heffernan claims are we living “on the Web in these hideous conditions … because … we can’t afford privacy,” but rather we connect on the Web because we want more from life. Twitter and other social networking tools allow us to learn from each other … across the entire planet.

What Twitter IS NOT:

A substitute for human interactions. Ms. Heffernan writes that “a surprising number of people now seem to tweet about how much they want to be free from encumbrances like Twitter.” If life on the Social Web is truly interfering with your life in the real world that is not Twitter’s fault … you surely had issues long before Twittering was part of your life.

A static social networking space Twitter has evolved from posts about “banal stuff, like sandwiches” to people sharing the things they love and they hate, sharing news, links and even recommendations. Ms Heffernan seems perturbed about this turn of events.

A way to get rich or at least out of poverty. You see this is Ms. Heffernan’s real issue. She is poor … or at least not rich. Tucked away in the top third of her piece is the line: “In other words, I’m not sure I’d use Twitter if I were rich.” And the piece concludes with her applauding a tweet that says “I wish I was rich and had personal assistants.” “Right on,” Ms. Heffernan sings.

So, the truth comes out: Our fearless writer really only needs to be rich to be happy and Twitter-free. Now that is a deep sentiment I’m sure all of us can embrace.

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