lol @ this article claiming that people who criticize twitter just don't get it or are not cool enough or whatever. read it first, i'm going to bust this bitch apart right now.
first of all, the original article that the above article is in response to is about a guy who is making a TV series inspired by The Wire, and anyone who is inspired by The Wire to make more content like it is probably a pretty smart person. anyway, that aside, let's get into this response-article and my response to it.
well, no, hold on, let me make another point: none of this conversation is happening on twitter. this is not twitter. nothing of what i have linked to so far is twitter. because you can't have a serious conversation on twitter worth having. the big-kid talk is relegated to other parts of the web. anyone who tries to convince you that twitter is anything but children talking to each other is missing a fundamental flaw in the system.
ok, ok, let's dissect this.
Documentary maker Adam Curtis criticised Twitter last week, describing it as a "self aggrandising [sic], smug pressure group". Speaking at the Sheffield Doc/Fest, Curtis said: Twitter is fun and it feeds the rat of the self but it is almost as if you miss large chunks of the world.
ok, i can get behind this.
traditional media people typically misunderstand Twitter and social networks in general.
while this may be true, that people who work primarily in traditional media misunderstand twitter's intentions, this does not make them inherently wrong. it makes their opinion simply different, because they're basing it on different experience. this is called having a different perspective. 90% of the twitter hype i read and the backlash against twitter critics are from people who disregard criticism simply because it is criticism. for some reason argument is bad. because really, what major debates has twitter had to withstand? it has no true enemies...
for a moment, imagine a world in which Apple had no competitors when they came out with the Macintosh in 1984. imagine if Windows never existed. the Apple platform would be even more pretentious, self-centered, and without rivalry than it may or may not already be. (however, in today's world, Apple has earned the right to be pretentious; Twitter has not.) having a major competitor (Windows) helped define and refine what Apple was, especially now. Twitter has no such refinements; they have no such competition. those who would say Facebook is its only competitor really aren't understanding the games being played. that's like saying Nintendo was a competitor to Apple in the 80s. you could argue it, sure, but they're not on the same field playing the same sport.
anyway, the original point, that traditional media people just don't get it, may be largely true. let's read twitter's mission statement:
We want to instantly connect people everywhere to whats most important to them.
what does this statement reveal to traditional media enthusiasts? i'll break it down for you, at least how i see it. well, it's pretty simple: twitter wants to be a virus. it wants to be the STD that we are all willing to share. it wants to "connect people everywhere" - oh cool that sounds great! what have they done to encourage this? google is trying out supplying gig ethernet in places... obama is trying to make broadband more accessible... i think all twitter has done is make signups free on their site.
"instantly" and "most important to them" are both problematic to me. they sound great, i mean why not? but no seriously, let's ask why not. instantly infers impatience, it breeds a contempt for process and curation. anything that comes instantly is often a mess, it hasn't really been parsed or thought of. I WANT MY CONTENT RIGHT NOW is not the direction we really need to go in, especially when Twitter is signifying it on both ends -- content aggregation and generation. Twitter wants not only for the content to be available instantly, but they want you to produce it instantly. we see this all the time when news breaks - it breaks on twitter, unfiltered, without thought, without preparation. and it's commonly wrong. in fact, it's really goddamn easy to fool people on twitter and start false news. don't get me wrong, i'm all for transparency and no censorship, but i also believe that people are paid to investigate things before reporting on them.
"most important to [users]" is more problematic to me. it suggests that we are consciously narrowing ourselves. users should only see what's important to them. i don't want to have to write about how wrong this is. my grandfather reads the NYT, the WSJ, and the local newspaper, every day without fail, front to back. he does this because it tells him about what he's interested in, what he didn't know he would be interested in, and what may challenge his views. the opinion and speculation sections are his favorite parts. of course, twitter users could easily "follow" things that might challenge them, but this is not the trend we're encouraging. that mind-expanding notion is not in the mission statement; only the opposite is present.
On a recent episode of Have I Got News For You, Ian Hislop asked in appalled fascination why TV presenter Richard Madelely was using Twitter. The fact that Madeley might enjoy it or that, hard as it is to imagine, people might enjoy hearing from Madeley seemed not to cross Hislops mind.
i share this view, actually. i don't see why anyone should not enjoy twitter. if you want to be on twitter, that's fine; you can do whatever you want with your life. i'm merely fascinated and disturbed by what twitter represents. i like twitter users who use twitter to link to their blog posts; usually they recognize that twitter is just mindless masturbation. sometimes not. if you want to use twitter as a fun place to write stupid messages to your friends, that's cool. there's nothing wrong with that. but if you're some hipster who thinks twitter is gonna change the world in a positive way, then you're an idiot.
(that's not including when twitter is the last-ditch effort at communication, as was the case in some of the protests in the middle east. i love that they used twitter. but you could replace twitter with telegrams and i'd be just as excited. the protesters subverted the medium to organize revolution. brilliant. but that's not something you can credit to twitter. the revolutionaries also used fax machines, but you haven't seen any buzz about that on mashable.)
Its more common to hear people in the media - and it seems to be pretty much only them - trying to argue that Twitter is somehow a bad thing.
"people in the media"... who are you then? is blogging not considered media? i think it is.
and fuck you if you really need to take such offense to people with differing opinions. this is exactly what i'm talking about. follow your friends on twitter, they'll never disagree with you! that sounds like a great fucking plan!
Twitter is a communication tool. It makes no more sense to describe it as conformist or elitist than it does to say that the telephone is conformist or elitist.
hana covered this one pretty well. i don't have much to add. phone is 1 on 1. twitter is broadcasting. it's self-indulgent. i'd be more willing to compare twitter to smoke signals. imagine if suddenly there was a fad of smoke signaling across cities. there'd be endless articles on how crazy obnoxious all this smoke is, and every time i go outside all i see are people talking about their friends and lady gaga in their smoke signals. and of course, all the kids doing the smoke signals would respond by saying "well you just don't get it" and "we're communicating over here, leave us alone".
i mean, i'm really comparing the physical/visual pollution of smoke signals to the psychological and intellectual pollution of twitter.
but all that aside, there's plenty of research on how the telephone irrevocably changed our culture, some ways good and some ways bad. it's not really a good argument.
They can also be funny, silly, thoughtful, perceptive, right, wrong, happy, sad and bored. They are just people talking.
and just like people in a pub, the noise level usually annoys the shit out of me. why do i have to yell over anyone? can't we go back to my place and have a goddamn conversation? also, again, remember that it's not just people talking... it's people talking publicly, archived forever, and selectively to just people they tend to agree with and retweet them.
Try substituting the word Twitter for the words people talking and see whether the criticisms still make sense.
i challenge anyone to read this guy's article and replace the word "the" with "fuck you stop reading this guy's material".
Plenty of media commentators have raged against the Twitter "mob", usually when the 'mob' disagrees with them. 'Here I am writing divisive opinions in my newspaper column,' they protest, 'and lots of people on Twitter are angry about it.' ... Theres a kind of social media conjugation revealed in the way these columnists back each other up: I am a writer with strong opinions, you are a polemicist, they are a mob.
I'd be annoyed, too, if I wrote an opinion column in a newspaper and the best response I got was a shitload of sub-140-character responses on Twitter, mostly consisting of phrases like "u suck" and "lol you're so wrong". again, all Twitter (and the internet in general) has done is make it seem like we all exist on the same playing field culturally and intellectually. when the whole world can respond to Bill Keller's anti-twitter article and all of them feel just as correct as he does, does it make them right? fuck no. it makes noise. the mob is just that: a mob. unruly. stupid. prone to a lowest-common-denominator masturbatory group-think. why the hell is that a good thing? empowering everyone to feel like they can challenge the executive editor of the NYT?
i mean, again, as i wrote before, you should definitely challenge authority. but you can't do that in 140 characters. you just fucking can't. "no, you're stupid! twitter rules!" is not a response, it's a social problem.
Heres how Twitter works. A person shares an opinion with their friends. Some of their friends add their agreement or simply repeat the original opinion by re-tweeting it. The network effects of the internet mean that the original opinion gets amplified to a far greater extent than it would offline.
And because few thoughts are truly original, there will be many others who will share the original opinion and have said so independently. Network effects will amplify their opinion too and eventually all these amplified opinions will meet and begin to look like a movement.
and here's where you fail. "few thoughts are truly original" is indeed true... for anything less than 140 characters. it'll indeed look like a movement: a movement of idiots, with superficial qualms. a mob. there are no manifestos written on twitter, and i doubt there ever will be.
But to mistake these people for a pressure group is akin to going to Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon and mistaking the shoppers for a protest march. Many people doing the same thing independently can often look coordinated but that doesnt mean that they are.
it's interesting that this guy makes a comparison to consumer capitalism; because it's a great comparison! but it works completely against him, if he knew anything at all. consumer capitalism is the height of what twitter hopes to achieve: mindless, instant gratification of manufactured needs shared in a likewise manufactured pseudo-collectivism. consumer capitalism aims to make you feel things that it insists others feel, and you belong to that group, but you are still an individual, as long as you express these needs by buying our product. but instead of tweets, on Oxford Street (and Wall Street) voices are heard through money. so a movement (through money or tweets) does not necessarily mean anything at all - just that people are followers instead of leaders. (i could, once again, go into what's wrong with the terminology itself of twitter...)
if anything, i'd say the people on Oxford Street, talking with their money, have more power than any collection of twitter users. by not buying a product, in protest, you are actually hurting a company in a way they can feel. you're using the capitalist system exactly as it was intended. you can't replicate that with a million angry twitter users -- you're relying instead on a kind of new social political capital which may push actual capital, but has no real authority beyond its superficiality.
Take a look at Twitters trending topics - the list of terms that the greatest number of people are discussing - and youll see that they are about as far away from the concerns of the media commentariat as its possible to be.
yup, the trending topics only further prove just how mindless, stupid, and worthless twitter really is. Here are the trending topics at the time of this writing:
#ilovemydadeventhough , #somebodytellmewhy , #paranormalchallenge , SCORPIOS RULE , Bald Gaga , Heath Ledger , Peter Bourjos , Tyler Greene , Teyana Taylor , Usos
oh man, this is so worthy of our attention, this is so legit. i especially like "bald gaga".
Theres a danger in viewing Twitter through the traditional media lens.
yeah, you might get challenged. you might have to think, to form an opinion.
That assumes that people only get their information about the world from one place. Again, Twitter is just a way of communicating and its as open or closed as the people you follow.
and most people follow their friends. they only get their information about things that are important to them. IT SAYS SO IN THE TWITTER MISSION STATEMENT.
Mostly whats revealed here is that Curtis, like numerous media figures before him, has mistaken Twitter for a publishing platform when in fact its a conversational platform.
Twitter refers to itself as a publishing platform. It wants all content that is important to you to be available instantly through Twitter. IT SAYS SO IN THE MISSION STATEMENT. that sounds like a fucking publishing platform to me.
and the last paragraph in the article is so stupid, i'm not even going to comment on it.