By Dave Carpenter
Consider the hour you’re in the middle of right now. Do these 3600 seconds overflow with experiences demanding an impassioned report from the nearest available rooftop?
Pretty run-of-the-mill hour, yeah? And you probably don’t need another digital distraction — say one that requires you to stop doing whatever has you occupied and tell the world all about your current, not-particularly noteworthy state.
Ah, but take heed, all ye not whiling away the hours with dorm room bong and laptop within easy arm’s reach. Such a virulent form of hyper-social networking is exactly what the media proposes as the next big Web 2.0 thingy.
It’s called Twitter, and it looks something like Facebook on speed . . . and possibly suffering from ADHD.
Twitter’s technology allows “Twitterers” to let one another know what they’re doing at any given instant of their day, via SMS, Instant Messaging, mobile phone, or the Twitter website using posted messages called “Tweets” of 140 characters or less. Messages can be restricted to friends and families, or broadcast for perusal by strangers (known as “followers”).
Does the question “why?” come to mind? As I see it, the difference between a web technology that works and one that sinks is generally dependent on the likelihood you’ll “get it” almost immediately, and get jazzed by “it.” Craigslist we get and like almost immediately upon using it; same goes for Wikipedia.
Twitter I don’t get. Twitter makes me want to take a nap.
With email, instant messaging, Facebook, mobile phones, and our old pal the LAN line, why for the love of sweet crap do we need to be even still more hyper-informed, and informative, than we already are?
Maybe in web years (much shorter than dog years), I’ve officially become that myopic old codger kids and geeks love to groan at, because the not-innumerous Twitter regulars, apparently having finally opted to insert DSL lines directly into main arteries, keep twitting throughout the day, as evidenced on the site, with updates that include “Off to meet the accountant” or “Cooked dinner two nights in a row, what’s up with that?” One lonesome fella even tweeted his entire country CD mix, song by song, while listening to it.
Twitter seems less a testament to the go-go, digitally-aided lives we advanced creatures lead, than further proof of the curious-yet-mind-numbingly bored little monkeys we actually are: We eat, we sleep, we copulate, we crap, we work, we child rear. Sure, every few days or so something might crop up that’s potentially worthy of broadcasting to all. But sharing your real-time state all day, making creepy pronouncements about your inner life in two sentences or less? Really?
Here’s what my current state looks like:
9:17 pm: Check me out. I’m typing. And I’m wearing pants.
9:21 pm: Think I’ll mosey on over to the fridge and get me a ham sandwich.
9:32: Ham sandwich digested. Diagnosis: Tasty.
And consider this: when people do things you’d actually like to know about, they’re probably not going to share them publicly. What might make Twitter interesting is if it followed you around all day and automatically published the most shameful or devious things you did, moments after they occurred.
Tim, Seattle, 8:42 am: Pooed his pants a little doing leg presses at the gym. Note to Tim — cut down on the morning Frappucinos.
Esther, Edmonton, 2:38 pm: Gave that little scowly-faced three year-old the mental finger in the mall.
Sal, Austin, 10:12 pm: Family computer’s hard drive consumed by malware, on account of all that gay-porn Sal’s been enjoying.
Actually, there is such a site, or close to. At Postsecret, you can anonymously disclose any deeply closeted belief, wish, or action on virtual postcards. Try it, and see see if you don’t spend a lot more time there than on Twitter.
Admittedly, Twitter does serve a few legitimate purposes, such as letting your friends know where you’re all meeting for lunch (assuming you can convince them to join Twitter on top of the myriad other social networks and means of communication currently at their disposal). There’s also a degree of entertaining irony floating about, courtesy users in on Twitter’s inane immediacy and overflowing chatter:
plasqy sockpuppet: Contemplating getting an iPhone. Only problem is . . . I don’t have any pockets — I’m just a sockpuppet. Any suggestions? 10:18 PM June 15, 2007 from web
Ultimately, though, Twitter has the tainted whiff of fad all over it, and won’t survive alongside the Facebooks, Flickrs and Virbs of the world, which offer deeper and more interesting windows into the lives of others, along with sticky applications for photos, video, and more
But if and when Twitter morphs into its evil cousin, sign me up:
Schadenfruede.com — whose misfortune are you reveling in right now?!
Dave Carpenter lives in Toronto, is a senior editor for Yahoo!, and blogs at http://carpendium.wordpress.com/