Friday, December 5th, 2008

Twitter is going to die

Twitter is going to die
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And I’m not talking one of those peaceful, Jim Morrison passing-out in the bathtub after a lovely glass of chardonnay, a hit of acid, and a blow-job from a groupie kind of “die”. No, I’m thinking we’re in for something much uglier. Perhaps like a scene from some crap horror movie, in which our unfortunate victim asphyxiates while choking on his own blood. But alas, I digress.

“What’s a Twitter?”

Not sure what the heck I’m talking about? Hey, I don’t blame you. After all, it did happened rather suddenly. Allow me to step back a little. Twitter is a micro-blogging service. For those of us involved in media-stuffs, it’s actually feeling a little passé; however, that doesn’t mean that my parents have any idea that it exists. In fact, the whole thing sounds rather pointless and narcissistic when I first explain it.

Twitter lets you send out brief messages. Anyone can view them (you can protect your messages if you’d like), and people can follow you. This means that your messages show up on their Twitter page. It sounds weird, but it’s actually pretty smart, and there are some really valid uses for it.

If I need a bit of advice, Twitter is becoming the first place I go as I find that lots of people are ready to lend a hand. Plus, it’s a really nice way to share a few brief words with your friends. Needless to say, there are other positive things about it, but I don’t want to talk about that–there are plenty of posts out there about how great it is. I’d rather be the fat, balding curmudgeon in the room.

This party was great until all the assholes started crashing

I made my first tweet a year (or so) ago. None of my friends seemed to be on it, so I stopped using it in short order. At some point over that year, however, Twitter has become the “shit”. (Not “shit”, but rather, “the shit”, by which I mean a really big deal.) I tied it to my Facebook account, and within a few months, it became kind of neat. I could sit on the toilet in the morning, and read status updates on my friends lives, before I had “done the paper work”. I was pretty happy with this. It seemed to be a fine utility.

I have an open-door policy when it comes to “friends” in social networks. In my mind an online friend is really anyone whose path I have crossed. I “friend” people all the time, and likewise, I often am “friended” by people who I don’t know personally, but perhaps felt that something I wrote here made sense. As such, I’m happy to connect and subsequently get to know new people. In fact, I love this. I’ve met people like Mark Dudlik, Bill Green, Marga Lopez, Rob Harrigan, Jess Sand and a batch of other folks who’ve been kind enough to strike up conversations. (Craig Hooper was nice enough to introduce me to bourbon and MadMen, for which I’ll be in his debt for many years to come.)

So, when people started to “follow” me out of the blue on Twitter, I took it as a compliment or at very least a kind gesture. Plus, my mom certainly didn’t raise me to be an arrogant dick, so I felt it was only polite to follow these folks right back. And this worked well… At least it did until I started getting a handful of follows from folks with monikers like “Chuck Obama”, “BestCoastIns”, and “1cosmetic”. These aren’t people; well, at least not people who I want to know about. They’re campaigns and initiatives intended to sell me plastic surgery, build someone’s personae, or some other scheme. As you might suspect, I’m disinclined to partake in this particular festival-of-poo.

Enter some Guy…

(See… this is me being clever.) I, like many others, am a bit of a fan of Guy Kawasaki’s. He writes interesting things, and is clearly a lot smarter than me. So, when I read his article about Twitter last weekend, I cringed a little, but then thought, “Eric, he is smarter than you.” and started to do what he said. I found people of influence and followed them. It was weird. I followed MC (You can’t touch this) Hammer and a whole bunch of other people. And it was sort of neat, even if it felt disingenuous.

A few days later it hit me. Twitter is “high-school” and man, I hated high-school. My ass got kicked all the time there, and I don’t think that I could pass a girl in the hall without breaking into a cold-sweat and popping a boner in my skin-tight, mid-chest-high acid-wash Ikeda jeans. But, as always, I digress.

The chatter on Twitter is eroding to a point at which it has almost nothing to do with actual dialogue. Increasingly people are using it less to talk to one another, and more to collect as many followers as possible. (So, it doesn’t matter that someone says really interesting things, it just matters that you’re friends with the prom-queen.) Doesn’t this just seem like bullshit? C’mon, you can be honest with me. I’ve been drinking for the past hour and am half-cut. I can take it… Really, I can.

To me, this is the whole part of adulthood that’s great. We actually listen to others and learn from them. Twitter isn’t built to do this, or at least, we’re not using it in this way. We’re using it to gain status and speak about nothing 140 characters at a time. “Nothings” are great to your friends who actually appreciate your trivia, but to the rest of the world it’s a big pile of noise.

Guy would say that I’m wrong

Maybe I’m putting words in his mouth, but from what I can read in his blog posts, I’d surmise that he’d tell me that I’m missing the point by trying to make friends on Twitter when I really should use it as a tool. And he’s probably right. A lot of people know Guy and listen to what he says. A certain number of people can as he suggest, but my fear is that the more of us who do this, the worse. Instead of it being an actual tool as he suggest, we’ll become a bunch of self-serving tools. “Look at me, look at me, look at me!” What a waste of time. 6,700,000,000 simultaneous broadcasts with no one on the other end. Terrific.

So, this weekend I’m doing the opposite of what Guy recommends. I’m doing a mass-purge… a twitter-shit… a micro-blogging enema. Call it what you will. I’m going through that list and de-following everyone that I don’t have a connection with. (If I somehow de-follow you by mistake in my hurry to filter through the list, just say so. Or, send me a death threat. Either will suffice. Actually, scratch the death threat part; email might be nicer.)

Guy would likely say that I’m seeing this from the wrong vantage point, and that having more followers on Twitter would be good for business. I say bologna. Sure, a lot of weak connections are often important in growing one’s business, but it’s starting to get like a room with too much noise. No one can hear anything, and I’d rather sit with a few friends and actually have a meaningful discussion. (Crazy that, isn’t it?)

And those auto-follow tools that automatically follow anyone who follows you? Yeah. Those really suck. Try one… you’ll get all kinds of new “friends”.

My crystal ball

So, here’s my prediction. Twitter will die. Within the next 6 months, we’ll all start to feel like this and go, “okay… this sucks. I’m going to go watch TV or videos of the Star Wars kid instead.” Now, I don’t think the technology or paradigm is dead. To the contrary, I’m just against how we’re currently using it. Just because they make megaphones doesn’t mean that you should start talking with one at all times.

Odds are that something like Twitter will take hold–perhaps a tool that works with smaller groups more readily. Alternately, we may just start using Twitter better. Whatever it is though, my guess is that our current use of Twitter will seem as silly in ten years, as now does.

And then of course, maybe I’m wrong. I often am.

I’m not trying to be an asshole

…it comes naturally. (Just kidding here… kidding. No, really–please don’t think less of me. I curse a lot, but I’m actually a relatively nice person.)

I love meeting new people. In fact, I likely have more friends out there who I’ve never met, than those who I have. I say this with a certain amount of pride. It’s nice to be connected to people who wake-up in different settings from me, who are willing to share a bit of their world with me. I enjoy connecting with these people, and I’d welcome you to follow/friend me, if you feel so inclined.

But why does all of this great technology have to be so self-involved and phone? Really… When did we get to the point at which we start talking about Perez Hilton and Julia Alison like they actually mattered? That’s sort of fucked, isn’t it?

BTW – Guy, I like you. You’re funny and interesting. I’ll still follow you on Twitter, even if you have a gazillion and two friends.

Follow @karj to hear about these posts first.

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