In (partial) defense of Twitter.

18 01 2011

Comrade PhysioProf hates Twitter. I’m going to ignore the MLA-related aspects of the critique, but these two points deserve careful consideration:

First, I believe that it–like Facebook–is deeply destructive of the mental operation of contemplation. The entire intrinsic structure of the medium is 100% oriented towards MORE, FASTER, BRIEFER, SUPERFICIALER communication. It is about collecting: friends, links, retweets, followers, hashtags, etc, and not about describing, explaining, or contemplating. It is about avoiding deep thought, not embracing it…

Third, it is grossly destructive of the practice of constructing decent complete grammatical sentences in the English language (and, I’m sure, other languages that poor dumb twittering fuckes in other countries use).

I’ve been there. Heck, I’m still there on both those counts (except for following Steve Martin, but he’s obviously an exception to the general rule). If somebody told me they’re teaching history with Twitter, I’d hope I could keep an open mind about what could be a great pedagogical idea, but in truth I’d probably abuse them mercilessly.

The thing is though, Twitter is really, really good for following links. If you follow people or institutions that Tweet (like the Chronicle of Higher Ed, for instance), who don’t spend time Tweeting about their breakfast and instead put up links to material with a lot more than 140 characters, you can browse a lot of information in a short period of time, and some of it is stuff that won’t show up in your average RSS reader.

The thing I like best about Twitter is precisely that it’s not Facebook. You get to control who you follow (assuming they don’t prevent you). Nobody confirms you as a friend. If you accidentally follow someone or something that decides to post on the subject of their breakfast (or other banalities), you can stop following them with no hard feelings. I can’t even read my Facebook page anymore there’s so much garbage on it, but that 140 character limit means that I can go through all the links on my Twitter page in a snap.

My tweets (which I continue to promise will always be nothing but links) remain on the right of this post, for those of you unwilling to make the leap that Comrade PhysioProf so eloquently resists.


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3 responses

18 01 2011
Historiann

I take your point, Jonathan. Like blogging, tweets can either be content-rich or content-poor. I think the mistake people make is in thinking that they can get the same content from just reading tweets.

But what do I know? I don’t tweet. I waste enough time on my blog as it is.

25 01 2011
The wired classroom as sweatshop. « More or Less Bunk

[…] week, I wrote: “If somebody told me they’re teaching history with Twitter, I’d hope I could keep an […]

1 02 2011
Heidi

Like any tool, Twitter can be used well or used poorly. You can choose who to follow on Twitter, so you can choose to join with others who use it well and for sharing ideas and resources.

The Proff’s argument is flawed because he doesn’t realize that Twitter allows one to be selective. Used well, is about conversation and discovery. Yes, there are plenty of people who use Twitter to say nothing more significant than, “your a freak you would know. We coming to odu soon your friend hates me hahahaha” (yes, that’s real tweet). But you’d never see that kind of tweet unless you purposely followed someone with trivial posts.

I think of Twitter like Grand Central Station. Everyone is going somewhere, doing something, and talking about it. Some are talking about breakfast. Some are talking about work. Some are goofing off. Some are studying. Connect with the conversations you want to hear and participate in, and avoid the rest. It’s that simple.

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