(I hate the lede to this post.)
(I’m going to blog about Twitter using something I saw on Facebook. It’s this strange sort of self-aware, meta train of thought that can only occur at this point in the history of the world. I mean, has anyone ever been able to write about something amazingly tangible yet imaginary using only social media? Zeros and ones? Crazy.)
(So yeah, here goes.)
A few weeks ago I noticed a status update from Kevin. I’ll spare you the blockquote and hyperlink treatment and just paraphrase: He tried Twitter and doesn’t really like it. It’s too much “re-tweeting” and not enough original content.
Kevin brings up a fair criticism, which exposes one of the fundamental problems the Twitter “medium” struggles with. Quite frankly, it’s freaking confusing. Its mandatory brevity and apparent simplicity makes proper comprehension and implementation difficult, if not impossible. If you’re not “following” both sides of a “conversation” you have no idea what’s going on, and even then you might need a half dozen clicks and multiple windows to catch up. Back and forth. Back and forth. On and on.
Some even need outside applications to make sense of it all, with varying degrees of success. Nonetheless, repeating what others say is a necessary component of Twitter. There is no telling who follows who, and inevitably some are missing out on people they “should” or “would want” to keep track of. News must spread, you know.
On top of that it’s all a popularity contest. People want to be followed just like they want “friends” on Myspace or Facebook. And so “retweeting” is as much about notoriety as it is about spreading information. If someone says something meaningful or important (or funny or stupid, et al.) you want to offer them credit and spread the word.
Of course there is room for chaos and spam and annoying things, but when real “news” hits Twitter becomes invaluable. Like when someone famous like Michael Jackson dies or when an important trade goes down, or even when Apple releases a new phone.
Or like when Michael Vick is a few minutes away from becoming a Buffalo Bill.
Hrm… that didn’t exactly go down like we thought it would, did it? It sure caused some chaos, though. Text messages, “re-tweets”, Facebook, talk radio; everyone got involved in this one. And even though it was a whole bunch of nothing, it was a story. There was something to refute and speculation to speculate, and that’s all that matters I suppose.
To see a journalist like Mike Harrington react to the “Vick Twitter thing” (Is that what we’re calling it?) is very interesting. Actually, it’s pretty funny. As someone who has embraced new media in general and someone who has clearly taken to Twitter, watching people circumvent real sources of news and go all kooky must have been frustrating for him to say the least.
I imagine it as a sort of “What Hath God Wrought?” moment in the age of social networking. Twitter can be used for… evil? This place for interesting links and funny bursts of inspiration can spawn all sorts of lies and turn rumors into chaos? Forget spam accounts and defaming impersonation, this sort of thing can do some real harm.
There are some that have already condemned Twitter, and surely more will do the same after this little event. Still, they miss the point: a medium cannot be judged solely on events such as these. I mean, how could it? In this age of rapid consumption and even faster evolution, Twitter will last longer in existence than actual utility and memory.
Like we’ve said before, it has flaws. It is messy and restrictive and based on a completely archaic, random approximation involving postcards. Soon enough something better will come along and we will all wonder how we got our news before… Twitter 2.0. Myspace becomes Facebook. Sega becomes Sony. On and on.
So while we wait for the inevitable decline of Twitter, let’s enjoy it while it lasts. I mean, Chad Johnson is talking smack to bloggers and cracking insanely stupid jokes. Donte Whitner is pimping Vick like Barker’s Beauties show off a riding lawnmower. Literally dozens of people saw what I had for lunch on Tuesday.
If it’s not useful it’s insanely entertaining, and somehow that seems to pass for news these days, anyway.