About a year ago I started to write a blog post about why I couldn’t get behind twitter. I never finished it because I thought “if so many people love it, isn’t there a pretty good chance I’m just missing something?”. As Brent Butt used to say in his pre-fame stand up routines,
“Just because I don’t get it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have merit.
What I don’t get could fill a soccer stadium”
and I try to avoid being a hater on the blog.
My reason for doubting twitter was basically this: while I appreciate the artistic challenges imposed by the haiku-like restrictions of the medium, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a medium best suited to it trivial narcissism. So I don’t blame people if they seem to mostly end up tweeting trivially narcisstic things, that’s just the way it’s going to be. And I celebrate those exceptions where someone manages to edit their profound/interesting thoughts into 140 characters. But I don’t really blame twitterers (and I don’t really celebrate them) because I just don’t care about twitter. And I don’t quite understand why the world seems to think I should.
The rash of articles — and I do mean rash — about how this or that celebrity or institution is using twitter and isn’t that amazing and forward looking was painful but seems to be receding. And I no longer see so many blog posts insisting that if people’s twitter streams are full or descriptions of their sandwiches, it’s just because they haven’t figured out how to write good tweets, and then failing to suggest what a good tweet might actually consist of. But the twitter backlash I always expected to come has never arrived, and people sure do seem to be tweeting. So here I am undergoing another round of self-doubt, wondering anew if maybe it really is just me that doesn’t get it.
Which would be great. I love it when new things emerge in the world, and there’s nothing more interesting than being wrong. Except, then, again, it sure is fun to have your private opinions reaffirmed for you by public authorities. Take it away, famous internet pundit Joel Spolsky:
Although I appreciate that many people find Twitter to be valuable, I find it a truly awful way to exchange thoughts and ideas. It creates a mentally stunted world in which the most complicated thought you can think is one sentence long. It’s a cacophony of people shouting their thoughts into the abyss without listening to what anyone else is saying. Logging on gives you a page full of little hand grenades: impossible-to-understand, context-free sentences that take five minutes of research to unravel and which then turn out to be stupid, irrelevant, or pertaining to the television series Battlestar Galactica. I would write an essay describing why Twitter gives me a headache and makes me fear for the future of humanity, but it doesn’t deserve more than 140 characters of explanation, and I’ve already spent 820.