Haiku of the Quotidian: What’s So Great About Twitter, Anyway?

I’m screwing around with Twitter.

The service was a blip on my radar when it emerged a couple years back, and I promptly discarded it as a pointless waste of time. But its been in the news quite a bit lately, with apparently huge numbers of people migrating to the service. I thought maybe I am missing out on something, so I decided to give Twitter another chance because maybe I missed something. It wouldn’t be the first time. I tend to be something of an early rejecter, discovering trends while they are fresh and cutting edge, then deciding that I want nothing to do with them until a few years when they become popular and I come around. I did it with Myspace, I did it with Facebook.

It seems to me that its a little redundant, offering the status updates of Facebook and nothing else. It seems to me that Twitter doesn’t do anything that you couldn’t accomplish more easily elsewhere. I just don’t get the appeal, and I don’t mean that harshly. I just feel like I must be missing something.

After creating an account, you are prompted to tell Twitter what you are doing. You have 140 characters to respond, and while I appreciate the creativity that such constraints brings out I can’t help but wonder what the point is. Economy of language is good, but maybe 140 characters explaining what I had for breakfast is still 140 characters too many.

Part of the problem is no doubt that I am coming to the service cold. I don’t know anyone on Twitter, so I am approaching it almost purely as a consumer. I picked a few famous-ish people to follow (mostly writers and newsish types) and I get a continual stream of their updates. These hold my interest but I don’t think my life would be diminished if I didn’t read the mini-observations and work updates of these quasi-celebrities. My life doesn’t feel any richer for them. I also randomly picked some people to follow from blogs that I read whose voice I feel like I know. But the majority of the output seems to be half-cocked thoughts and observations, frequently witty but ultimately unsatisfying.

Twitter updates (tweets as the cool kids say) feel like intellectually empty calories.

And those are the good ones. I’m not even getting into the multiple followers I receive that want to tell me about their SEO opportunities or their marketing consulting. I guess there’s nothing wrong with using social media to solicit business, but I really don’t need another place where people are always trying to sell me.

Granted, my experience would be far different if I had a group of friends who were all avid Twitterers. The ability to engage in back-and-forth tweets using @replies seems like one of the coolest features but since I don’t actually know anyone on the service I feel weird interjecting myself into their conversations. I’m never sure what the etiquette is on social media sites, and I hate looking like a jackass.

I’ve only launched a handful of tweets myself. I feel self-conscience enough writing here where I generally try to think my posts out and not write anything here unless I have something to say. Your mileage may vary. Not every post on Semantic Drift is as insightful or deep as I would like, but they do tend to be more substantial than what tends to fly on Twitter. I worry enough about the value of my regular blogging without burdening the world with even more tangential ephemera in microblogging form.

Like any open-minded young person, I don’t mind experimenting. I’ll continue to play with it for a while, but it seems like Twitter and I don’t have very much of a future together. This feels like another web2.0 fizzle.  It will likely turn out to be a brief flirtation like the Digg Affair of Summer 2007 or my abortive fling with last.fm. Or it might turn out to be an internet Friend with Benefits like Del.icio.us.

The jury is still out.

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