I love technology. I can’t go anywhere without my iPod, I suffer from withdrawal symptoms when I’m away from my computer for too long, and I’m confident in saying that the Internet is simply the coolest thing humankind has ever made.
But sometimes we take things too far. We roll with an idea that seemed good at the time, and end up asking ourselves “What has science done?” The latest in these experiments gone awry is Twitter. An unholy blend of narcissism and Facebook status updates, Twitter is apparently the “in” thing nowadays. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it’s basically a Web site that lets you send text messages, or “tweets,” to others, with a maximum of 140 characters per “tweet.” These text messages are then displayed to all of your “followers,” people who receive whatever you tweet. And that’s it. That’s all Twitter is.
Twitter has experienced a recent explosion in popularity, and is now big enough to warrant a “Twitter feed” at the bottom of the screen on CNN during certain news programs. This last detail was the thing that really made me wonder.
By no means am I a Unabomber-esque technophobe. I can’t state enough how much technology has bettered my life. But sometimes we need to take a hard look at what we’re doing. In my mind, Twitter represents a general decline in our culture.
The entire point is to inform others about the otherwise private minutiae of our lives. I understand that some people see it as a way for normal citizens to alert others to events of great magnitude, but how many people do you know who use Twitter actually do that? Who cares about what Oprah does in her spare time? Who cares about what Ashton Kutcher is doing on his day off? Who cares about what restaurant John Q. Public went to this afternoon? The driving idea behind Twitter is a bad one: what are you doing right now? These aren’t even my words: “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: ‘What are you doing?'” This is an actual quote from the site itself.
Facebook and MySpace serve a purpose, I guess, although sometimes it seems a sad and lonely purpose. At least you can put up photos of you and your friends, or keep up with your cousins in Montana who have only one computer, purchased in 1997, and are the only people in the nation who still have dial-up. Twitter just lets you post updates about yourself doing things no one wanted to hear about in the first place.
Once, being the naïve youth that I am, I thought Facebook was the most asinine thing currently popular right now. I was wrong. Take a look at some of these gems from the site, further describing the purpose of Twitter: “Why? Because even basic updates are meaningful to family members, friends, or colleagues especially when they’re timely. Eating soup? Research shows that moms want to know. Running late to a meeting? Your co–workers might find that useful. Partying? Your friends may want to join you.”
The creators of Twitter seem to forget that the phones they use to text these details to others can also be used to make phone calls to other people to tell them you’re running late, or partying, or eating soup. Despite this, it seems that Twitter is the newest craze in American culture. There seems to be a pattern emerging, although. If you look closely, you can already see the signs of Twitter’s doom. Simply put, Twitter is becoming too popular. It happens to nearly all the Internet phenomena. Just look at Facebook. The fastest-growing demographic there now is middle-aged housewives who heard about “this new Facepage thing” from their children and want to see what all the hubbub is about. The same thing happened to “lolcats” a few months ago. Pictures of cats with “I can haz cheezburger?” and other phrases were all the rage last December. Then everyone started to make his or her own, and now the only ones making these things are your cousins in Montana, who still think Kevin Costner is the hottest thing in Hollywood.
The only good that comes out of Twitter is when it is utilized by media sources. Who wouldn’t want the latest-breaking story popping up on your cell phone every now and then? Who knows? If Twitter had been around 40 years ago, the country wouldn’t have had to wait for Walter Kronkite to tell us President Kennedy had been shot on the evening news. Instead, we might have found out when we read his twitter feed: “OMG prez kennedy got shot in head. Day ruined :(,” and the inevitable reply: “@waltkronkite: BOOM HEADSHOT.”
But, I digress. My point is that soon everyone will be tweeting, and not too long after that no one will. The next cool, hip thing will have come around (my money is on throwing our cell phones at our friends to indicate we want to talk). Either that, or swine flu will have killed us all.