Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is Twitter Contributing to the Demise of American Culture?

The preceding question is not meant to be rhetorical, I am of the firm belief that social networking services such as Twitter are assisting in the decline of American culture through its proverbial nerve center, language.

I recall reading an article of Time which essentially extolled the nigh limitless virtues of this service and was appalled by the basic premise behind this emerging technology. It certainly has some valid applications --namely as a political mobilization tool-- and the Iranian election protests (June 2009) illustrated such a noble purpose. My gripe is that Tweeting or "Twittering" (whatever the kids are calling it these days) lends itself to the self-indulgence of the author while simultaneously removing all substance from the message. Research has been conducted that a majority of Twitter posts are *gasp* "pointless babble." Seriously, the world does not want know your take on breakfast cereals nor what you think of your cat regardless of how adorable it might be.

Now, what gets my goat completely is how many companies --local and multinational-- have utilized this "service" to reach out to a new customer base. Really?!?! Why should I subscribe to your Twitter posts if you are trying sell me something! Last time I checked you have advertisements in all conceivable mediums (Print, online, television, radio and affixing placards to the homeless).

The most disconcerting aspect of a business' adoption of Twitter is that people not only follow their posts but also engage in an absurd "conversation" --if could call it that-- with it. Do these people realize they are talking to someone being paid hourly to update Twitter and Facebook statuses? That's right, it is someone's JOB, they aren't doing it because they enjoy Taco Bell and its ritual abuse of farm hands (or its food for that matter), they are doing it to survive. Your time would better be served listening to the time on a telephone then participating in a conversation with your favorite fast food Mexican joint.

I suppose my main gripe with Twitter is the reduction of a thought to a 140-characters sentence. Twitter's website says it is the way to "Discover what's happening right now, anywhere in the world." The question is how can one derive anything meaningful from one-hundred and forty characters? You know, when I want to learn about a complex issue such as immigration law in Arizona, I consult Twitter because it wraps it into a tiny package. Twitter might speak of what is currently "happening" but does it by also perpetuating the dwindling of the collective attention span in America.

What do I know, I lost touch with America long ago... Perhaps, I should just sit back and enjoy the ride. What? Andy Roddick has a new "tweet?" No way! He "just heard someone ask hotel manager "how big is that lake out there?".......they were pointing at the pacific ocean.......FAIL!" Classic! Not only was it thought provoking, Roddick speaks with an immediacy and importance (to an audience of a quarter million no less), while sacrificing punctuation and grammar. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to sign up and follow my local car wash on Twitter... I need its perspective on such topics as soaps, shammies, and the current state of the war on terror. What can I say, I frequent a pretty elitist car wash heavy on the political discourse.


Perhaps, Bruce Sterling --as quoted in a Times piece-- said it best, "Using Twitter for literate communication is about as likely as firing up a CB radio and hearing some guy recite the Iliad."

Truer words were never spoken.

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