Of Tweets, Twits, and Twitches

By

On second thought maybe I won’t start Twittering. Not yet. Not unless someone can convince me that it’s more than just…

“… the telegraph of Narcissus. Not only are you the star of the show, but everything that happens to you, no matter how trifling, is a headline, a media event, a stop-the-presses bulletin.”

From Nicholas Carr, via Justin Talyor.

Ouch. The “telegraph of Narcissus.” That’s good copy. Also, I still haven’t taken the time to really understand what Twitter is, or how it works. Is it basically like the old Status Update on Facebook? Mostly like the ones which say “…is taking a nap,” “…is making dinner.” Wow, awesome news. Dinner. But we could analyze that stuff all day and I think we can all rest assured that the government is spending trillions on studying this stuff as we speak.

What am I turning into, a curmudgeonly critic of modern superfluity? I like hearing those kinds of updates from some people -especially when it’s entertaining. Otherwise, there’s the “hide” feature on Facebook at least. Use it and save precious minutes. Someone who has really good Status Updates is our very own Eric Peters. He had a recent one that went like this:

Eric Peters pities the poor, rotting Easter eggs forgotten and undiscovered in lawns across the USA.”

S.D. Smith likes this.

I saw where Ashton Kutcher beat Larry King and CNN at getting a million Twitter followers. That is a lot of twits. I mean tweets. It is also making it extremely easy on the dude who writes that feature in Sports Illustrated called “Signs of the Apocalypse.” I feel like I wasted time taking ten seconds to hear the news about it reported. How much worse would it be to actually hear anything that Ashton is doing unless he is Punking Andrew Peterson.

AP: What do you mean I’m a drug mule for Compassion International?
AK: Ha, Ha! You got Punked.
AP: Oh. Hold on a second, let me send a tweet about this.
AK: No way, I’m already doing it. I have a million followers.
AP: I think you’re actually Punking all of them, then. Because that is a joke.

Maybe I’ll start an even quicker and more immediate social connection medium: Twitcher.

Every three seconds or so all of your bodily movements, “Twitches,” are recorded and broadcast to all the people who think you’re a big deal.

I see money in my :::back spasm::: future.


34 Comments

  1. Jamin

    Take celebrity out of the equation, and minimize the amount of self absorbed “What are you doing right now?” Any guesses what this leaves??

    For many, especially in the design community, Twitter has become exactly that: a community. We share links to relevant articles, or inspirational art. We ask questions when something in our design doesn’t work right, and help others find answers. We use twitter to conduct surveys, and troubleshoot. And yeah, occasionally we throw out some fluff tweets that say things like, “I’m watching Psych, the greatest show on the planet” & find out a little more about the people in our community. As a result, I’ve learned so much about web & graphic design.

    Is it a broken medium that it creates a false sense of community? Of course, but it’s no different from the Rabbit Room–you’re just limited to posting 140 characters at a time. It’s a tool; understanding how that tool works and the ways it can affect us is the key.

  2. Loren Eaton

    Regarding Twitter, I just can’t imagine anyone who’d be interested in knowing the minutia about my life, such as how a poorly wired socket in my kitchen surged yesterday and blew out my coffee roaster.

  3. Tony from Pandora

    Loren,

    Really?!? My living room socket melted my EdenPure Quartz Heater just last week. Nearly burned my house down. I have to replace the wiring for that entire circuit.

  4. gina

    thank you for this hard hitting expose on the evils of twitter. clearly you think it is the worst thing ever. seriously, though, remember when cell phones were the new thing? any time you were around anyone with a cell phone and could hear his or her conversation, it went something like this:

    “where are you? oh.”

    “me? i’m just sitting here in the dentist’s office waiting to have my teeth cleaned…”

    followed by more minutia, gossip, griping about their jobs…whatever. then,

    “yeah. okay, well, call me later.”

    same thing, but see how much time we’re saving? things change, but they don’t change that much. people, in general, might be just a tiny bit self absorbed.

  5. Heather Irene

    AP: What do you mean I’m a drug mule for Compassion International?
    AK: Ha, Ha! You got Punked.
    AP: Oh. Hold on a second, let me send a tweet about this.
    AK: No way, I’m already doing it. I have a million followers.
    AP: I think you’re actually Punking all of them, then. Because that is a joke.

    Wow. Never expected to see those two names together. Ever. Brilliant.

  6. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    S.D.,

    Twitcher gave me a good laugh.

    Jamin: Limited to 140 characters? :::voice and hands shaking, sweat beads forming::::

    Like, I’m all, ” {indecipherable hand gesture}.” Know what I mean?

    I will resist Twitter; I’ve already got my hands full with Facebook, email, my website, Rabbit Room, MySpace, and Banjo Hangout. I like blogging, mind you, but I like playing music even better.

    Ron

  7. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    By the way, right now I’m going to clean up my studio and then play music and then get ready for a friend to come over and then probably I’ll make a salad and brush my teeth after and then I’ll play more music and then talk to my wife and then after that my kids will get home from school and I’ll brush my teeth again after dinner.

    Do you think some people use Facebook and Twitter and all that in a significant way, while others use it as a means to stave off the feeling of insignificance in light of the psychologically crushing weight of the American Celebrity Cult? The media screams “You are not important. You are not important.” What does that do, day after day, to a person’s mind? (I wouldn’t know anymore since I shut out as much of the World-Noise and World-Think as I decently can without losing complete touch with the culture).

  8. Tim

    Hilarious post, SD.

    I’ll chime in and say I love Facebook statuses because I can see what my distant friends are up to. It’s quicker than phoning or emailing, but I still feel like I’m a part of their lives.

  9. Loren Eaton

    Tony from Pandora,

    Honestly. I normally roast this particular kind of Ethiopian bean for seven mintues. At five-and-a-half minutes, I looked over to behold the beans becoming carbon. They burnt into charcoal. Not a lovely smell, that. The electrician came by the day and said the folks who hooked up the switch (not us) messed up the wiring. The back of it was black.

  10. Stacy Grubb

    Ron,

    I think you may be on to something there. I don’t have what it takes to come up with clever status updates on Facebook, so I figure Twitter would be a profile dedicated to how interesting and witty I’m not. And like you, Ron, knowing I’m typing with a word governor is just one more added stress to my life. Words are free, people. Use ’em. It is for those reasons, and the fact that I’m so out of the loop that I only heard of Twitter last week (yet, am ahead of the times being in on the early stages of Twitcher *yeah, go me*) that I’m not a Twit, Tweet, Twitter-er or whatever they would be called. But I do believe there is a certain satisfaction and feeling of celebrity that can come from sharing the mundane play by play of your life, knowing that someone subscribed to hear about it. It’s a fuzzy feeling, afterall, when my status reads, “Stacy Grubb is eating a peanut butter and banana sammich!” and someone comes along who not only reads about it, but likes it, and takes the time to click that they like it so that I know they like it. I and my peanut butter and banana sammich are liked. Doggonit, people like me. Life is so good.

    Stacy

  11. Aaron Roughton

    Aaron likes this.

    As for Twitter, I don’t have any interest in the minute by minute updates of my friends’ lives. However, my enemies lives are a different story. It serves me well to know, for example, that one of my arch enemies “has the whistling line from Do The Hustle stuck in his head.” I can easily exploit these small bits of information, and Twitter is a goldmine.

  12. Evie Coates

    @eviecoates

    Oh thanks Aaron. Now that whistle line from “Do The Hustle” is stuck in MY head. If you know me and whistling, which you didn’t but now you do, you’ll know that this is sure doom for the remainder of my day/week/month.

    Sheesh.

  13. Bret Welstead

    First off, funny post. It reminds me of a great YouTube video parody of something new called Flutter. Do a search sometime, it’s worth the time.

    All of us come to any given topic with a given set of assumptions. And I think you’re making some assumptions that simply aren’t true. It seems like you — and the author of the blog you linked — are assuming that 1) users of Twitter do not use any verbal communication in their lives, but only stare at their computer screens or cell phones searching for the correct combination of characters to arouse the attention of those around them; 2) 140 characters is adequate only for talking about yourself, not pointing others to the world around you and the world around them or, dare I say, pointing them to beauty, or laughter, or hope, or even God; 3) Twitter is somehow the lowest common denominator of the concept of “online community” and is vastly different then, say, Facebook or Myspace or the Rabbit Room or this string of comments.

    Obviously I’m being a little sarcastic and harsh, but I think you’re pointing to a symptom and calling it the problem. You’re saying that Twitter is the ultimate in narcissism, a false community. And you’re doing it on a blog. Hey, kettle, you’re black! 😉

    I “tweet,” and I’m on Facebook, and I read this blog and write on my own blog, which the Rabbit Room has conveniently allowed me to reference as I reply. And though there are many people, termed “friends” or “followers,” who are little more than pixels to me at this point, there are a fair amount of my face-to-face friends on these sites, as well. And countless face-to-face conversations lately have begun with follow-up on a status update, or a tweet, or a blog entry.

    This is why I don’t believe that Twitter or Facebook or the Rabbit Room are evil; in fact, I believe that there is some honest good in them because they are enhancing my community and fellowship with my friends. For those who I don’t see often, I can keep up with them in the meantime. For those I see a lot, I can know what they’re excited about or frustrated about, and ask them when I see them.

    Twitter is not the problem. The problem is turning inward, and that can take a variety of online and offline forms. The solution is to seek and build relationships with others. That, too, can take a variety of forms.

  14. sd smith

    Thanks for the funny comments. Aaron, as usual, takes the prize.

    And by “takes the prize” I do not mean he actually gets a prize.

    I guess I need to put up a big disclaimer when I am making attempts at humor.

    Note: While I linked to a serious discussion of Twitter, it was just a launchpad for some joking around. I think Twitter is just like all the rest of the stuff we do. I too have a blog, a Facebook account, and a billboard in Time Square updating my every move (NOTE: That last one was a joke).

    So I am not actually judging the thoughts and intents of everyone’s hearts who uses Twitter. I’m probably going to do it myself whenever I can find a ten-year old to explain it to me.

    Andrew Peterson (an unheard of Russian ballet star) does it, Abraham Piper does it, and I like to read those.

    So fret not. This post is not of the serious variety.

  15. Josh Kennedy

    Wait a second here people. How is it possible that after 16 posts not single person has commented on the 5 year old lighting up a Camel? This deserves some serious attention – I’ve gotta tweet on this immediately.

  16. Cindy Kasten

    Cindy Kasten Likes this.

    My husband has the funniest status updates! He’s a very shy MENSA member, speaks few words a day but, his status’ are hilarious! I copy and save them.

  17. Aaron Roughton

    Wow. Josh is right. I withdraw myself from eligibility for the imaginary prize on the basis that I missed the opportunity to comment on the picture. I’m ashamed.

    And I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed with myself. I too have had “Do The Hustle” stuck in my head for 24 hours. Remind me not to mention that ever again.

  18. LauraP

    What I like about all of the aforementioned tools is that they let me be part of a community unlimited by geography and unrestricted by the need to find a mutually convenient time to connect. They help make my world broader — how else would I ever have discovered the music of Julie Lee or heard a sermon by Russ Ramsey or read the amazing writing of the contributors to the RR? And they make it easy for me to share those things with my friends, who share with theirs — so the beauty and the grace cover a wider territory.

    And though I really don’t need to know the minutiae that some twits tweet, in a way, Facebook reminds me of letters my mother exchanged with hers on a weekly basis when I was growing up — “we had Alvina and Harvey over for peach pie on Sunday after church… got 40 hundredths of an inch of rain on Monday…” Sometimes there would be a recipe for a “new” noodle casserole enclosed. Somehow in the sharing of what seemed trivial and unimportant, it helped keep the heartstrings tied together.

    On the downside, I am finding a need to develop yet another kind of self-discipline (not my strong suit). It’s far too easy to while away a big chunk of the day (and night) following the trails that any single post with a link can set me off upon…

  19. Eric Peters

    Josh, I’m right there with you; that kid makes me want to bust out my meerschaum and take a nice, long, relaxing drag. But maybe that’s not what you meant?

  20. Eric Peters

    That’s a mighty cute kid in that photo, SD. He could be a great spokes”man” for Marlboro Reds. All kidding aside, kids should only smoke their kiddie bubble pipes like famed kid star, Bart Simpson. I miss Billy the Kid.

  21. sd smith

    This is a Christian site. I have a cross notched in my Bible from where I went soul-winning and this site made a decision. My stats are amazing.

    I think the tract I used was “How you, a simple website, can skip the scary bits.”

  22. Clarkitect

    Funny, I found this site from a vine off of Twitter. I revolted against both Twitter and Facebook for a long time. I find MySpace to be jr. high, Facebook to be high school/college and Twitter to be young professional. Twitter is amoral. It can be narcissistic, being abused like any other human endeavor. However, Twitter has opened up a whole new world of information gathering I wouldn’t have been able to find before (like finding this site, S.D. Smith’s blog, & Abraham Piper’s “22 Words” blog to name a few). I ran across this article trying to see if The Rabbit Room was on Twitter to expand my knowledge base. Until then, I’ll keep reading a great site. Thanks guys.

  23. Kevin

    Neil Postman nailed it in this interview from 1995 when he talked about the significance of physical presence as a key ingredient to real community. We can call Rabbit Room or Facebook or (gasp) Twitter a “community,” but they are not complete communities- they cannot fulfill our need to be physically present with other people. Your mind and mine can meet her in the Rabbit Room, but I can’t see your eyes or pass you an apple crisp. If I ruled the English language I would require online meeting places to use a word other than “community.”
    Anyway, check out this youtube of Postman. The comments I referred to start at 00:02:30

  24. Kevin

    kudos, by the way, S.D. on winning the Mad Bull writing contest at Portland Studios. I enjoyed your entry! 🙂

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