Twitter in 140 Characters or Less: Trivial

I wrote this as a draft and didn’t post it. Now I’m doing so as a way to edit history to make me look prescient. Except that at the time of posting, history still disagrees with me. Ah well.

As far as I’m concerned, there are two possibilities regarding twitter. One is that I get it: it’s cross-platform version of what the Facebook status update feed does. The second possibility is that I don’t get it at all, and there is in fact some crazy emergent magic about the existence of tweets in people’s lives that is obscure to me but exists and justifies an enormous degree of upcry and hullabaloo amongst the technologically literate and celebrity technology journalists alike.

But even if the second case is true, and I doubt it, there is no conceivable way that twitter could justify the actual current degree of upcry and hullabaloo it is causing. It’s a meme bubble. The bubble will pop. Holy crap people, it’s a single-line communication tool. Big freaking deal.

I’m reading reports that dismissing twitter as an “I don’t get it” is so 2009. And maybe I don’t get it. I mean, I understand that it represents a slightly different communication tool: a short messaging system that is easy to publish to, including phone messaging options, allows for a collated syndication of all your friends tweets into a single, easily digestable stream, and allows for people to subscribe and unsubscribe as they wish. Similar to RSS-reading blogs, but simpler and swifter to do, and simpler and swifter can put a technology over the hump into widespread use.

But who cares if the widespread use is a trivial one? Not that there’s anything wrong with triviality. Some argue that only newbies use twitter for trivial communication, but they don’t suggest what a non-trivial use of twitter might be, and all the tweets I’ve seen can be fairly summarized as trivial. I know, I know, the Iranian revolution. But from what I’ve read, twitter isn’t actually getting much use by protestors, who are mainly using phone messaging. The western media is fixating on the twitter traffic because we can’t see the phone messages.

Someone somewhere is replying, yes, but that’s only because twitter penetration isn’t as high as it will be. Once you stop complainining and start using it, it will become a true revolution! To answer that we should turn to acknowledged twitter-lover Clay Shirky, who points out that communication revolutions are only ever identifiable in retrospect. So if the world is fascinated by twitter for what the revolution that it might be, I don’t find that very compelling.

Not that it matters. Either twitter is a revolution, will be a revolution, or neither. Unless someone finds a non-trivial use for a one-line message delivery service, then it’s a choice between a trivial revolution or a non-trivial revolution. Twitter in 140 characters or less: trivial.

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