Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Twitter: Stream of Consciousness Comes of (Electronic) Age

In case this three-part diatribe seems to cast Twitter in a malevolent role, that is not really my intention. I just can’t get my head around its usefulness as an application. Useful for college buds, perhaps, but what about everyone else?

It all comes down to what one defines as useful. Here’s a neutral assessment: “Twitter is a publishing platform with a 140 character limit and no comments. You’re in control of what you post, so why is it any more invasive or transparent [than any blog]?" (from a reader’s comment to another blog). Evidently, the blogger had in mind the usefulness of being invisible, and the commenting reader had in mind some opposite utility.

What if I’m not on that axis? My polar opposites at this point are usefulness in advancing my agenda, or at least not detracting from my ability to produce. I am not one of those geniuses who can walk and chew gum simultaneously. I cannot concurrently think and listen to music. I can’t even get torqued by a blip in an argument and instantaneously hurl the perfect retort in my opponent’s face. I have to take time to think about things. A lot of time. Uninterrupted time. In my mind, input and outgo must travel a one-lane treacherous mountain pass on the time-sharing honor system.

My foggy-headed persona’s user interface can’t grapple with the constant flow of Tweets throughout the bulk of a productive day. I need quietude. Reflection.

I know: how antiquated. Yep, that’s me. But I’m not alone. (Hey, quietude doesn’t necessarily mean solitude.) One social media writer noted, “Twitter is a constant pulse product, meaning it can really sap your attention span.” Someone else admitted: “Another drawback is distraction. Twitter is a notorious time waster, it is addictive, and it is always on. To this I would drawn an analogy of the modern inbox - it is never off.”

Can you become “addicted” to something that is designed to make life better for you? Do the constant tweets of inane activity converging on one’s cell phone (or computer screen) truly spell out a message that makes anything better? Do we need yet another utility to sift through the aggregated data to extract anything useful? Or is this just the celebritizing of the common man, a chance for every unknown to build a PR platform to support that yet-to-happen 15 minutes of fame?

Some may care to know the daily food choices of the rich and famous, or their choice of shoe color this evening, or who they are @-ing. To me, it all just seems like so much stream-of-consciousness of people known by mostly no one, in a desperate attempt at electronic self-assurance that surely someone really cares.

And yet, something keeps calling me to check this phenomenon out. There has got to be some powerful use for the novelty. Could it be so addictive that, having not even tried it yet, I am already hooked?

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