Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Hate Twitter

I am a young twenty-something practically tethered to the Internet, as most young twenty-somethings are. And, don't get me wrong, the Internet is great. It's fantastic. Seriously, it's just plain wonderful. I can't imagine life without it and the idea that the Internet wasn't actually around at some point in my own lifetime is mind-boggling, to say nothing of the fact that the generations before me somehow grew up without it. (I heard they used some kind of “p-mail.”)
But I hate Twitter. I reserve for Twitter one of the greatest, purest hatreds: not one borne out of anger or emotion, but one borne out of philosophy. I do not hate Twitter in the way that I hate stubbing my toe, or in the way that I hate Tracy Morgan. I hate Twitter in the same way that, say, Copernicus hated geocentrism. I'm not being irrational or hysterical – it is just that Twitter is so thoroughly wrong and so prolifically wrong that its very existence undermines our otherwise rational and mostly progressive society.
Let me first say that I do not hate those who use Twitter. I understand that, for most people, Twitter is just the next iteration of the MySpace/LiveJournal/BullShit social networking superfad that threatens to engulf the planet. I understand that most people use Twitter casually and without malice. I understand that most Twitter users do not believe that they can cause so much damage in 140 characters or less. These people I understand, and I can hate them no more than I can hate the average sixteenth century peasant for believing that the sun revolves around the earth. So don't feel insulted.
I am not the first person to hate on Twitter, and I am sure the reasons are obvious. Twitter is the epitome of the current wave of Web 2.0 content, which can be essentially summarized as the following:
“Everybody cares what I had for lunch today.”
It doesn't matter where you are or what you're eating – if you're connected to the Internet or to a phone (a distinction that will greatly date this essay within six months), you're able to tell dozens if not hundreds of people what you just crammed down your throat. Someone could be stranded in the middle of the Amazon Jungle, surviving off maggots and tiger meat, and they would still find a way to tweet “Blegh! Tiger meat again!” And somehow this would make tiger fighting completely boring.
Of course, at this point many readers will wag their finger and object, “Ah, but my Twitter is better than that. I tweet about interesting things in my life, and [worse yet] I tweet hilarious jokes!” Others might object that many celebrities, writers, and other important figures have interesting Twitters that are worth following. Some others might object that, even if Twitter is nothing more than a boring account of people's day-to-day lives, it's still worth reading.
I could respond to all such comments with a simple and deserved “shut up,” but in the interest of argument I will point out three facts.
One: your Twitter is not interesting or funny, and you are no better than people who tweet about their sandwiches.
Two: I have never read a good or funny Twitter from a celebrity, even if the celebrity is a person I otherwise enjoy.
Three: whatever utility Twitter might have as a small-scale personal diary or communication cloud is negated by Twitter's tendency to clog up with @ replies and other nonsense.
Again, I don't hate Twitter users. I understand where they come from. Blogs proved too involved and unwieldy for the average user. Writing a cogent journal entry is too time-intensive and obviously boring. Twitter, on the other hand, not only allows you to limit yourself to trivial bullshit, but mandates you limit yourself to trivial bullshit. Nobody is worried about standards or being interesting when they only have 140 characters to work with. And when even professional comedians are tweeting about dinner, you don't have to worry about other Twitters making yours look bad.
If I sound angry, I am not. My position on Twitter is one of utmost composure and cool reason. I simply believe it is the worst thing happening in the world right now. I believe that the once great dream of an Internet with honest-to-god content has been lost. If modern web design means that breaking news comes through Twitter in between “Mm, a BLT” and “@tweetfan22 I had macaroni too!” then I want no part in the Internet of tomorrow. Just leave me be and I will return to Web 1.0 and publish through GeoCities.
I hold out some hope, though. I hold out hope that our collective intellects will win out in the end and people will snap out of this tweet-induced siren song. I believe that there is the real potential for there to exist some day an Internet with communities of substantial content and the free flow of ideas expounded on rather than excreted. I believe that, some day, perhaps even the most vigorous tweeters will come to realize just how erosive they are.
Because nobody cares what you had for lunch.

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