Twitter’s Takeover

Argh. Sorry, folks. Today was supposed to offer another DoMS entry, but I got sidetracked by a combination of schoolwork and Touhou. So I’m swapping today’s entry with Wednesday’s Thoughtscream. Don’t worry – we’ll be back on track with my usual otaku tl;dr stuff soon enough.

(Touhou’s SO FREAKING HARD!)


The idea of Twitter isn’t new, of course. Its origins, if such a short history merits the word, falls all the way back to the early days of AIM, when everybody started to realize that away messages can, in fact, give more information than “I’m not here right now.” You could coordinate events with it, make it easier for families and friends to find you, or simply let people know that you were too busy to warrant even a phone call, saving everybody a little hassle. It spread to Facebook’s status and profile updates for much the same: social networking convenience, pure and simple. Really, the development of Twitter was pretty much inevitable.

Of course, that doesn’t really ask if Twitter’s a good thing. Or if social networking, and microblogging in particular, is a good thing. Its critics have pointed out, quite accurately, that the very concept is distilled narcissism: the idea being that the daily events and routines of your everyday life is somehow fascinating or interesting enough to make streaming updates about is hard to describe in any other term. Sure, in the case of celebrity twitters – with author Neil Gaiman, actor Wil Wheaton and musician Amanda Palmer – there’s justification in believing so. Fans being defined by their obsessions, it’s an easy way to maintain a high level of public interest in whatever they’re up to.

But what about for everybody else? The narcissism critique holds true without even monetary interests to excuse it. Of course, the same could be said for any form of blogging, but the transient bursts of info that Twitter limits people to exacerbates this. It’s arguable, after all, that a hundred and forty characters simply isn’t nearly enough for any serious dialogue, or any real context. With only the shallow depths of information Twitter provides, then perhaps John Stewart is right, and this really is nothing more than a gimmicky fad, soon to dissipate as a mere footnote in cultural history.

Well, while I’m a great fan of Stewart’s works, I’m afraid he needs to get more up-to-date writers for his one-liners. Twitter, if given any serious consideration, looks to have within it a certain amount of staying power – built within its quirky potential as a bastion of citizen journalism.

A student and his translator unlawfully arrested in Egypt. The Virginia Tech shooting, and an entire campus’s worth of students, faculty and parents, trying to make sure their loved ones were alright. On both a dark and light note, the coordination of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, and the coordination of the relief efforts and victim identification in the aftermath. Be it tragedy, be it politics, be it any kind, form or color of breaking news, the last few years has seen Twitter quietly prove its worth.

Any journalist worth a damn has an account now, plugging into the rapidfire, staccato burst of Twitter’s metacortex. The hundreds of links, thousands of first-person updates, and countless watching eyes individually not amounting to more than a hatchling’s tweet – but accumulated, carefully cultivated, and eyed carefully for the rippling patterns of informational exchange, illustrates the entirety of the jungles of civilization.

Not bad for a mere hundred and forty characters per post.

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~ by Gonzo Mehum on March 11, 2009.

2 Responses to “Twitter’s Takeover”

  1. Indeed, it seems that Twitter now has way more uses for it than its creators ever envisioned. An enlightening post. :)

  2. Twitter also adapts well to the mobile phone, which makes it even easier for a Tweeter to post such citizen journalism or social networking while they are on the go. With the penetration of mobile phones worldwide, I won’t be surprised to see a long-form story about how the abuses of a government official were captured on mobile video and then Tweeted to hell and back so that there was no way the government could deny or cover everything up?

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