Over seventy thousand tweets and my opinions about twitter have not changed.


For tree years I’ve been using twitter and for at least a year I believed that this was the great social connector, the website that would turn our passive, faceless web habit into something more personal. Of course I was wrong about this. Anonymity is still as great as ever but in a new sense of the word.

That motivation to connect, to establish meaningful relationships with people is weak. You see this through every twitter tweet, through every interaction. You see this through the contemporary attitude towards online and electronic conversation.

Have you ever listened to two non users speak about computer communications? “I don’t want to use it because I don’t want to lose my privacy”, and the second person “I won’t use it because I don’t want to be stalked, I don’t want someone calling me without me consenting to it. It’s the same line over and over. It’s the line we were given as children about accepting sweets from people we don’t know.

The only difference is that these people are grown ups, and the bad stranger is a globalised system of conversation commonly referred to as twitter and another called facebook. Both have been around for a while now and it’s interesting to see how much greater the usage of facebook has grown compared to that of twitter.

Facebook, however foreign, however bizarre, however shy in nature is a relatively well respected and appreciated addition to the student life, and to some lesser extent the professional life. That is because it was built around a very private and closed community. So private it was exclusive to one university, then one nation of universities, then the global university before finally becoming a public hangout where you say who your real life friends are, and where their names are visible, their picture is available, their affiliations too.

In a sense Facebook is the greatest breach of privacy you could think of. Stalking, as some people worry about is so much easier. At the same time it’s relatively untouched because of the personal security settings that are a common part of every day life.

Now take a look at twitter. It’s a hundred and fourty characters of text at a time. That’s not much information. It’s less than an SMS. It’s basically a chat on a global scale. There is no threading, or at least there wasn’t. There was no @ sign. There was no concept of reply.

Everything that twitter has become is through a great enough number of users agreeing on a communication convention for it to become part of the site’s fabric. This has been demonstrated a number of times. What makes twitter so “versatile” is also what makes it so unappealing as a communication tool for the most interesting people you know.

Anyone with a normal life does not feel the need to communicate virtually to strangers. They prefer person to person interactions in the real world. Twitter is a waste of time. Spend an hour looking at a timeline and you’ll see what strangers are doing all around the world. Now ask just one person to meet and you’ll have no one to meet in great swathes of landscape. That’s because it’s for wealthy people according to some research, 67 percent of college graduates, so educated too.

I read in a read write web post that whilst eighty seven percent of people asked knew about twitter or facebook fourty seven percent use facebook and only seven percent use twitter. The article, in it’s analysis went on to say that twitter is far more complicated to start than facebook. I can’t help but think creating a username on twitter would be faster than on facebook. All you need on twitter is the username after all.

I think it has a lot to do with today’s social values, the fabric of the society within which we live. People have no problem with e-mail communication. They have no problem with phone conversations. They have a serious problem with electronic social interaction. There are a number of factors for this being the case. One of these is our superficiality, why commit to a person whom we have never met, never smiled at? Why commit your thoughts and opinions on paper, in a place where google can index them so easily, and eventually to be called on them. Does that make twitter appealing? No, it doesn’t.

What about the barrier to entry. How many people have a computer that boots up within ten seconds, a permanent internet connection and a machine performant enough to deal with twitter and other sites. You may scoff at this last suggestion but have you tried using social websites on older less powerful machines? I have and it’s a laggy unpleasant experience. Hardly appealing to your average user. Then there’s the matter of time. How many hundreds to thousands of tweets do you need to read before you come to an interesting person? How committed are they to the site? If they post five times a month no personal connection will be established. If they spend all of their time on twitter is this as a result of unemployment or are they on the move with any of a number of smartphones? Do your normal friends have the funds for a smartphone and data contracts so that they are online? Is there a need?

The conclusion is a simple one. In a society where people see the computer as a geeky waste of time for nothing more than work, where face to face interaction is prized above all else then facebook is the clear winner. You add friends from every chapter of the life you have already written for yourself. On twitter you’re building on the future, behind a computer, only to find that the early adopter lifestyle means you have to travel to meet these individuals. In other words unless you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer then twitter is a complete and utter waste of time.


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