Twitter is addictive. There is no doubt about it. It’s strange really. Every time I try to explain twitter to the non-initiated, I realize just how awkward it really is:
Yeah, it’s this Web site that allows you to post messages “ but not more than 140 characters in length “ to people who you don’t know and people who don’t know you. (mostly).
Frankly, that sounds ludicrous, right? But that’s what it is! And even though I’ve been on and off twitter for almost a year now, I couldn’t figure out what it is that makes is so appealing.
Then, some popular newsworthy geekish gatherings came along. First it was MacWorld, then it was SxSW and TED. I watched the twittersphere do something that was so uncharacteristic: it got focused
Shortly after all the SxSW buzz settled down, it occurred to me: Twitter totally appeals to this post-boob-tube, ADD-afflicted, interconnected society because everything is so quick and ephemeral. Twitterati are random people saying random things at random times. Sure there’s the occasional string of @ replies, but then conversation ends with a couple remarks or goes offline to another medium like IM or something. Most times, though it’s a rapid stream of randomness that can zap your attention if you let it.
Twitter is not just a productivity-suck, though. There is a value to the distractions it provides: It’s these quick little bites of other’s lives that makes a quasi-public forum and I believe is imperative to our republic. I say this because even though the Web is “public” our taylor-made, day-to-day online experiences are becoming so personalized and secluded that I fear we’re isolating (or insulating) ourselves. It’s too easy to block out other personal views that won’t challenge us to think. And worse, if we make too much a habit of socializing with only like-minded people and shared experiences, that lost touch with diversity can lead to an atrophy of our convictions.
I know my folks wouldn’t “get Twitter,” but for a generation that feeds almost entirely on media morsels, this is the only way we’ll contextualize our messages we want to share.
Just found this repost of “Twitter in Plain English“