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.

Comments & Trackbacks

  1. Tobias says:

    Interesting thoughts—though I mostly disagree with you. Social networking tools are all what you make of them (except myspace which simply sucks). I keep the number of people I follow and allow to follow me to around 80 each and keep the conversations on personal and professional topics going with @ replies.

  2. I think it will be fascinating to watch and see how these various technologies become mainstream, more useful, and evolved.

    re: the high-school-ish nature of twitter, I'm not so sure this isn't true about the majority of the social web experience... at least in its current form. There are cliques everywhere I look - or is that because I, like you, got my ass kicked way too often back in the day?

  3. Tanner says:

    If you're anything like me, I would imagine you make considerable decisions when you choose to follow friends on Twitter (and other social networking sites). It may seem a little excessive to follow 504 people when you stand back. I would assume, though, its kind of like cleaning your attic, "I can't throw out this scarf! I got it in Junior high from my best friend's mom." I've always had pack-rat tendencies, and have been intrigued to see how it follows through to the web2.0 realm.

    Maybe I'm not making a lot sense right now, but I'd really like to hear how your de-following experience goes.

  4. Laburno says:

    Interesting thoughts -- really.
    I must digest them, maybe i'll need an extra toilet-time (best place to think about things, in my opinion).

    Meanwhile i'll follow you on Twitter :)

  5. David Airey says:

    Hi Eric,

    The simple reason why I don't follow more people is that I simply couldn't keep up with all the Tweets.

    I make use of the tool to discover if I've missed any messages coming my direction, which makes a lot more sense to me than 'collecting friends'. So it's not that I'm ignoring people by keeping my 'follow list' small, just that I want to be paying attention to those I've known longer than most.

    An interesting post, one again.

  6. Amy says:

    I like Guy too and I read his blog. He's a lot of smart things to say about executing - the Rules book was really great and got me off my ass.



    BUT he's got his web 2.0 marketing hack image to preserve. (But without the hack, you know, is how he must look at it.) It's in his interest and his friends' interest to convince everybody else that "following" the "leaders" is in THEIR interest. Because he's a leader, of course!

    The beauty of Twitter is that - service outage issues aside - when you have your little group of followers & people you follow, it's like having your own personal zone. And people use Twitter in so many different ways: like a micro-journal, like a chat channel, like your best internet help desk, like a publicity medium, like a way to score casual sex (hooray for geolocation apps!). Depending on who you follow, and how they use twitter, you can have a totally different Twitter experience.

    These differences aren't signalling the doom of Twitter if you ask me, any more than the latest rash of MLM "cash magic" videos on YouTube is signaling YouTube's end. Or circle j--I mean echo chamber--marketing blogs that just link to each other signal the end of Typepad.

    Why not just de-follow ("leave") the people who you're not connecting with personally, don't bother about the people you don't know following you, and go back to enjoying your friends' updates?

    I must say I have felt better since I implemented that plan myself.

  7. Jason Tselentis says:

    Funny, I've always felt Twitter was like Friendster + the CNN news ticker + E! Entertainment News x the Soup. It does sound like a failure once you add all those things up.

  8. Brad K. says:

    Many of us left high school behind .. eventually. And Twitter may enable high school social values from pranks to gross-outs to petty, acid bickering, gossip and cat-fights. But.

    We all know the kind of things we can find on YouTube. ("Will it blend?", "Numma Numa" - Hi, Tom and Vince!). Yet I sent Mom a list of a couple of "Sing Along With Mitch" and "Glenn Miller" clips. So far she hasn't strayed from the old-timer niche into the provocative stuff (I *would* have heard about that).

    And that is what Twitter can become. A universe of independent worlds. Gossip (one of the true social evils) mongers will find themselves a whole world to roam and poison - at the same time people and companies will use Twitter to conduct business and families can stay in touch long distance - each group unaware of the other group's existence.

    Blogging looked like sinking into a similar morass of bad language, spam, and unsavory topics and visitors. Yet there are neighborhoods that don't have that kind of distraction. Mommy blogs, car enthusiasts, hunting and gun enthusiasts, horse enthusiasts - kid venues.

    What likely comes next in Twitter is not fragmentation, but development of communities, and tools and techniques for communicating with people you respect, while avoiding the rabble and the boring.

  9. Jess Sand says:

    Karj, my e-friend, I tend to agree with you.

    I've never joined Twitter for the simple reason that it appears from the outside to be a big circle jerk. The web as a whole really ain't much more than an electronic version of real life anyway. As such, it's just not as fun for me as the real thing, which often can itself be a mixed bag of tricks. But, then again, I have antisocial tendencies and an ornery disposition (if you can believe that).

    That being said, and against my better judgment, I'm as much of an e-whore as the next 2.0er. I get what I can out of the online world, and that getting is pretty good provided I give back some (like I said, the online world isn't much different from the real world—karma's inescapable, as is the general populace). I just feel like Twitter is, as you've pointed out, a stepping stone to yet another advertising channel. My eyeballs bleed from real-world ad bombardment as at is, so I'll just pull the shades down on that one, even if does mean blocking out the sunshine of your tweets.

    But I'd rather share a drink with you than text messages, anyway!


  10. Winfield says:

    It's wrong to assume that the use-cases for Twitter are completely symmetric. When I'm posting I'm broadcasting small parts of my life to the circle of friends via sites like Facebook/MySpace/Livejournal. When I'm following someone on twitter it's because I value what they have to say (ala Guy Kawasaki), not that I'm purporting a social relationship.

    The uses are totally asymmetrical for me, but very important to me in opposite shades of meaning.

  11. Thanks for all of the great comments!

    I've done my purge. It was weird and I felt a little mean in doing it. (I think there may be only so many conversations one can handle. )

  12. The first feeling or thought that one has after getting the " and so is now following you..." notification is to follow them back, which could totally be disastrous.

    The fact that somebody finds you (or at least your twits) informative or interesting doesn't necessarily mean you 'owe' them a favour by following them back!

    So twitter is what you make it to be. follow a thousand people and see how it can suck!

    only follow people that adds value to your browsing!

  13. David says:

    Funny post. I think I can relate to your personality more when you swear. I'm a mouth piece myself, however, that doesn't make me a bad guy. I'm with you here on Twitter...when I first joined it, it seemed a bit useless to me, it still is. Partially because most of my real friends are technologically challenged or simply don't have an interest in jumping onto Twitter's social networking wagon. Then I found a better use for it with a tool called Twitterfeed. You've probably know about it, but it allowed me to kill 2 birds with one stone. Since I'm too lazy to log into Twitter and refresh/update "my status" for my "friends" (some whom I never met), I've decided to tweet blog-post updates for any of my followers who are interested. I also added the Twitter app on Facebook which then grabs any tweets and adds them onto my Facebook status. So every time I post on my blog, updates goes to both Twitter and Facebook, without me loging in either. I thought that was cool, but other then that, I think Twitter is fairly useless. Who knows? Maybe I just haven't discovered it's true potential...these are just my two cents on Twitter.

    Nice post, I enjoyed it.

  14. bg says:

    Eric, I don’t think Twitter became something else, it's just there’s a huge increase in the static on Twitter from ‘social media expert-evangelists.’ (I know this because their profiles tell me so.)

    Fear not, the rest of the ‘regulars’ are still there talking about what they had for lunch or posting tips on how to gain... wait for it... 600 more followers.

    The high school comparison is perfect, not just here as someone said but in most online communities. Here’s an A-B test for the SEO crowd in the audience:

    Create two new Twitter accounts. One with a pic of, well, any 40-year old virgin. The other, a hot chick.

    ANY, hot chick.

    Watch who has more follows after a week.

    Shallow? Sure, but at least in high school, teens have an excuse for being shallow—they’re teens.

    What’s the excuse for most of the people on Twitter?

  15. Eric,

    Very smart perceptions... and I think you're starting to point to an evolution that will need to happen with Twitter's service model to allow it to satisfy both the social users and the "mouth-piece" types.

    There's a sort of critical mass that happens with so many people having to sift so much chatter from so many disparate voices. That much noise doesn't quite cohere as a good experience for anybody. Sifting the content is becoming overwhelming.

    What we're probably going to see is people using Twitter as a kind of social RSS feed/entertainment source in the mass market, while those interested in quality of conversation will cultivate smaller networks of people that we actually have real, in-depth conversation with. We can hack it in when people include @karj or #ideasonideas in their messages. Imagine what's going to happen when corporations start using their own lingo/hash-tags: $citigroup anyone? We will start going right to the level of conversation we want -- from newsy and impersonal to relational and human to corporate and probably useless.

    If the service doesn't evolve to handle that -- and start making some money in the first place -- then Twitter will definitely go poof. I can't say if that's a bad thing. What will we do with all of that freed up time? Maybe have a few more conversations in the real live world.

    Best, David

  16. Steven Clark says:

    To a certain extent I have to agree with you. Social networks come and go, and something a little better with a killer app something or other will lay Twitter in the ground... when the cool factor goes and everyone offloads to the next best thing in town.

    I'd say that simply from experience really. But one thing about the Web that seems to be human second nature is the belief that everything will be the same in years to come... mmm...

    And Twitter can only be devalued further by marketers and the like. Personally, I see it as a signal versus noise situation. Twitter makes a lot of noise that I have to wade through for mostly trivialities. So I tried it and left. But an application that cuts through that noise may well knock them right out of the race... maybe.

  17. Now if we had been following each other a day or two ago you would have seen the link to a post I wrote about Social Media becoming more of a social mess ( ) which I think ties in quite nicely with what you wrote here. Twitter is a prime example of why I get the feeling we are having conversations for conversation sake rather that actually talking with each other.

    Great post (subbed)

  18. Raam Dev says:

    I think you're using Twitter in the wrong way (or were using in the wrong way). Myself and everyone I know who's using Twitter uses it for posting relevant or interesting pieces of information they want to share with their friends. Once in awhile if we're in an interesting or unusual place and we see something interesting, we'll tweet our location and a note about it.

    Twitter won't die. Quite to the contrary it will survive, probably a lot longer than most of these other social networking sites (look how fast Twitter grew in comparison to Facebook!). I'm very much against "following as many people as possible". I'm very selective with who I follow (and even more selective about who I enable mobile updates for!). I can't even imagine trying to keep up with more than 50-people's-worth of updates!

    This is my first time visiting your blog, so I don't know enough about your background to know if you work with Unix/Linux at all, but if you haven't already, you should really read Tim O'Reilly's thoughts on Twitter:

  19. yael says:

    I signed up for Twitter over a year ago. I hardly use it because I don't text from my phone or use mobile web, but I do use my computer and internet connection nearly 24/7. I figured twitter was for texting addicts. It sort of is. I still don't fully 'get it' even a year and a half later.

    I don't automatically follow back those who've decided to follow me. But, I do check to see who they are. It's interesting to see the connection (why they thought to follow in the first place). If there is a decent connection, I'll follow back. But, then again I don't actually 'follow'. I rarely log into twitter.

    I am still not sure about twitter. I use other networking tools, but for professional-related reasons (not social stuff). For that reason, I avoid Facebook and rarely use Twitter. LinkedIn works very well for me. It's matured into a very useful networking tool - they got a lot of things right.

    Eric - I just have to mention that I love your articles and wait for them patiently. When they pop up in my feed reader, I don't hesitate to read there and then. They are always funny and smart. Thanks for another gem.

  20. Thank you for that Yael. It's been a very hard week here. Reading your comment about the posts made me feel great!

  21. Dude - unsub from the noisemakers. I see the dynamic you're talking about. Guy is smart, and he's pretty good at pointing the advantageous ways to use things. Doesn't mean you ought to follow it.

    Perez Hilton? Julia Alison? Why waste the time even thinking about them? Never even enter into my mind.

    Nope, sounds you've got a handle on it. Stick with what interests you, not what *supposed* to be in your interest.

  22. Benji - Dallas says:

    I use Twitter to jot down ideas these days as opposed to the huge stack of moleskin notebooks that I used in the past. It's hugely efficient, quick to login, clean, and works on every platform, including my android phone. I will use it indefinitely for this purpose and can see many ways others could benefit...without all of the social nonsense. Don't talk to others on Twitter. Write your thoughts down. If people read them, cool. If not, cool. You get what you need and move on. Quick and out of the way.

  23. Rob says:

    I agree. Twitter will die. I'm surprised it's lasted this long. You seem to feel it has gone where I always thought it would. I've never signed up and, but for a brief look at the tweets of some 'twits' I know, always considered it an enormous waste of time and energy.

  24. Ben Reimers says:

    Maybe I dislike Twitter because after trying it for a month I didn't have any followers, despite how many breakfasts and whinges about public transport I read about. Perhaps I hate it because I don't share that sort of mundane detail and feel quite silly doing so. But mostly, I think that there is a fair bit of egotism surrounding the format. It suggests that people might actually care about the mundane, and while sadly some people do, for me there is far too much chaff and not enough wheat.

    Probably the same reason why I could never maintain a blog for more than a month, deleted my MySpace page after a couple of weeks, don't log into my Facebook account anymore, and stopped replying to random SMSs from friends who never picked up the phone to actually talk.

    Anyway, I think one of the major issues is how the format is being used. People aren't separating the personal and the public. If I follow a Twit (or is that Twittererer?) what I really care about is their thoughts on CSS, or jQuery, or how they resolved their latest server crash, not their kid's birthday party or how the weather is lovely. If the system supported better separation/classification of content so you could only be updated on what you're interested in, then it might be something I'd use.

  25. Mark says:

    For my personal Twitter account, I stick to what was originally rewarding for you - Maintaining a smallish network of people with common interests who chat during the day and reach out for tips or resources. I've met some really good local people through Twitter.

    I have another account for our business. That account autofollows people that follow it and is there to build a rep.

    There's no reason the latter has to ruin the former.

  26. James Yu says:

    I totally agree. I also went in this week to do a total purge, just because I couldn't keep up with the tweets from people I really cared about.

    I still have more purging to do.

  27. Alan Wolk says:


    Thanks for the email alerting me to this post.
    Not sure if you'd read it, but I wrote something on a related theme the other day about how Twitter was becoming the newest Ponzi scheme due to the whole "collecting followers" notion.

    You prediction really depends on whether that notion catches on. Kawasaki is a mass-marketer - Alltop is a volume business.
    Most people aren't selling volume, but quality.
    And let's be real: most people on Twitter aren't selling anything at all.
    They're using it as an asynchronous IM device
    As such, they'll likely find it odd that people they don't know want to follow them and won't follow them back.
    So the "I've got 2.945 followers! Help me get 55 more so I can have 3,000!!!!!!!!!!" crew may soon peter out.

    But if they persist, I agree with your theory 100%

    I'd much rather read about what my (real life) friends had for lunch than see yet another link-roll tweet for some pointless blog post.

  28. I'm with you there Alan. :-)

  29. Jim says:

    What Twitter needs is a "Groups" feature. If you use TwitterDeck, you know what I mean. It allows you to put the people you follow into certain groups, and only see their Tweets. This allows you to separate the Twitterers you want to keep an eye on at all times from the "friends" that you only occassionally care to read what they have to say.

    Hopefully, this gets implimented by Twitter, but if not, at least a developer with a great Twitter app (EventBox comes to mind).

  30. Mihaela says:

    Eric, this was probably one of the most entertaining entries you wrote in a while - please note that this is only as my own personal perspective over online realities is concerned. I share your feelings about twitter - I particularly like "twitter is high-school" - although, to be honest I'd push the level even lower than that.

    However, I don't think that twitter is going to die so soon. I could write a book about "why not" - but to simplify: twitter applies a "board messaging" principle that has been around forever. Consider it an online "SMS" type of communication tool. Some things may change at twitter, but the "stickiness" will always be there. Maybe twitter will become an application integrated in a browser, or in a social network like facebook and people will use it from within these entities, but it will not die. Communication with friends and potential audiences is easier with twitter than with anything else. This is a too good marketing tool and those who are interested in its potential outreach will not let it die.

  31. I don't disagree with you Mihaela. The core utility is sound. It's our method of using it that sucks.

  32. Mark Vale says:

    This article describes exactly why I don't follow @hotdogsladies. I really don't get anything out of the egotism or snarky remarks.

    That said, I don't think Twitter will die outright, but I do think people will slowly start to re-evaluate how they use it, much in the same way you describe.

  33. Thoughtful and provocative, and flirts with the dissonance many of us are feeling about what I sometimes refer to as "social media indigestion." We're consuming too much of this too quickly, and probably making a few "bad calls" about friendships, connections, and more. I do think the platform itself has real value, and what's most needed is a bit of "correction" -- not total death. Also, worth noting that the issues you tee up are not unique to Twitter. I'm over 1000 friends, and find myself caught between the Guy K. guidance and my own doubts about what constitutes genuine friendships.

  34. Yardboy says:

    Twitter is different - "friending" someone on other social networks actually requires very little effort and has only a minimal impact on you. On Twitter, this is not the case - following someone requires a commitment on your part - you don't have to pay attention to their words, but at least you are opening your ears to what that person has to say and cluttering up your page with their posts.

    The "be polite" urge to follow someone just because they followed you is hard to get by, I'll grant you. But you have to or yes, you will just be watching a page full of static. Extend new followers only the courtesy of having a look at their page. If you don't find anything interesting or compelling on their first page, move on.

  35. The primary reason people embrace Web 2.0 ANYTHING is they don't want to be the Tom Watson of IBM who in 1943 said "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

    If you embrace EVERYTHING new, you're not going to be wrong about the next big thing.

  36. Lisa Cruz says:

    Oooo, let's just say that I've been having some of these same thoughts lately. Just unfollowed my "first" today and it felt liberating to do so.

  37. Tom says:

    I liked this other article I saw today: You Don't Have to Follow Everyone on Twitter that Follows You!


  38. David Benjamin says:

    While you make some valid points, you lose some of the luster by coming across as immature, like the high school student you make reference to. Nothing is perfect and with the influx of social media tools, some will survive while others will go the way of cabbage patch kids...a fad.

    Your use of the English language and need to add obsentities for the sake of being 'radical' doesn't strengthen your my opinion. It's too bad, had you eliminated that jargon you might have written a successful post.

  39. Gee Dave... but that's the way I speak (or in this case write). It's not Sunday School; it's polemic.

  40. It's kind of like LinkedIn, isn't it? Too many people look at their count of twitter followers and linkedIn connections as the end, rather than the means to an end.

  41. jack says:

    Dude, you must have been really bound up. I took my twitter shit months ago! Had to get rid of over 2000 of them and got it under 100. Never felt better.

    Good social colon health is important!

  42. DaveMurr says:

    I didn't like High School - but I like Twitter.

    The conversation may be getting "polluted" as you suggest, however the best part of Twitter is you can filter of siphon the dialogue.

  43. Janice Laing says:

    Hysterical!!!! Laughed out loud more than a few times.

    I agree with most of what you say...not that I plan to stop using twitter as a tool. I even made comments along the same lines on my pathetic beginner blog last week. Although mine were made with less no one would find them.....while yours were loud and proud!

    Absolutely love the term "twitter-shit". I've already had a few.


  44. Janice Laing says:

    Oh.....but not about the death of Twitter. :-)

  45. Interesting points although I respectfully disagree. Twitter is what you want to makeof it in my opinion. If you want to limit your relationships to a few and focus on building valuable friendships, that's an admirable goal.

    If you want to be like Guy and have the world follow you, that's also admirable.

    The truthy is that Twitter works for some and it doesn't work for others. Some people love Plaxo. I don't. Some prefer Linkedin to Twitter. It depends on the person.

    We're all different. That's what makes the world a great p;lace.

    John P. Kreiss
    SullivanKreiss, Inc.

  46. MichelleConlon says:

    Well, pretty blunt and to the point... I have to agree that it may be necessary to do some house cleaning of people that you follow from time to time... But I do not agree that Twitter will die anytime soon. It is a micro blogging tool that allows people to connect with one another on various topics of interest that you normally wouldn’t be in connection with. Twitter can be a very powerful social media tool… If used correctly.

  47. cat says:

    When I first got on twitter, like everyone else, I didn't 'get' it right away. After few stops and starts, I jumped in.

    When I asked how it worked, I was told to friend those in the industry.

    So, because I could, I ran around adding the top guns.

    Well, number one, the majority of the top guns are boring as all get out.

    Number two, not many will respond.

    So number three, it was like... ok, it was like secretly reading comments from someone sitting on the toilet.

    Only, they know you are reading their toilet sitting comments. But, they pretend you don't exist.

    Quite the attractive scenario.

    In that way, yeah, I agree. Twitter is a lot like high school.

    Only, most of us haven't reached senior level where we no longer care who's listening to us on the toilet.

    (really takes you back, doesn't it)

  48. bryan says:


    I totally agree with you. My wife just about gave up on facebook the other day because of all of the people who wanted to be her 'friend'...I know she would never survive with Twitter.

    An alternate to unfollowing people could be using a tool like Tweet Deck that allows you to create groups of people and then you can filter out all of the nonsense tweets and just focus on the ones that really matter to you personally. You can then also further divide those that you want to read more often than those you just want to check in on every now and then.

    However, I'm all for not following people unless I feel it's worth it. I don't feel obliged if someone is following thousands of people to just immediately follow them. Are they really paying that much attention to me?

    Thanks for the post. I echo a previous commenter in that I look forward to your posts and when they pop-up in my feed reader, I almost immediately begin to read them.

  49. Thanks Bryan!

  50. Two request for GenY bloggers who want to be taken seriously by serious business people:

    1. Please quit using "totally" Actually, please quit being hyperbolic.

    2. Please make arguments without profanity. The use of profanity dilutes what would otherwise be seen as insightful.

    Thank you.

    @Eric polemic? Did you seriously write that? Makes no sense in your context.

  51. Hi Gerard,

    The problem with seriously serious business people (as I suspect you see yourself) is that they behave in such a serious fashion. In fact, that may be what separates your generation from ours. Yours is about being serious; ours is about communicating.

    You might be surprised by how much clients (even serious ones) prefer the latter--profanity and all.

    And yes, I (seriously) wrote “polemic”. As in: this is an argument, and therefore speaking in a restrained manner seemed largely unnecessary.


    BTW - You really have to let go of the word "seriously".

  52. Randall says:

    I had no idea people took it to heart when people 'followed/unfollowed'. After reading all the thoughtful comments, I still can't get worked up about this. I don't care if Walmart, Procter & Gamble, Gucci or Texaco marketing wonks tweet a thousand times a day, I'll never know because I don't follow them. To those who are traumatized by too many people wanting to be there friends, this is really bizarre to be upset over this. Just don't accept them in and if they ask let them know your fb rolodex is only for your immediate family and neighbors, whatever. People need to grow up a little.

  53. Randall says:

    Good god I typed with a lot of caffeine. Forgive the typos and the crabby tone, but the gist is essentially what I wanted to convey.

  54. Don't worry about it. No one thinks less of you for typos and crabbiness. In fact, I think that may be the underlying theme of ideasonideas. Just as long as you don't make too many misteaks. ;-)

  55. Floydy says:


  56. Hey Floydy. Enough with all that. We're trying to be totally serious around here. Seriously. (You GenYs... Sheesh.) Seriously.

  57. ian says:

    I found your post particularly interesting. You see I work for Radar ( which is a service for sharing camarephone pictures, videos and conversations with a tight group of friends.

    Radar is similar to Twitter by the fact that it starts from the same premise of wanting to share what you're doing while you're doing, but we built it on the premise of their being more value in sharing those moments with your real social network (the people you're calling and texting on a daily basis), not the entire world.

    If Twitter is talking on a megaphone, Radar is a living room discussion, and I believe that you're right. In a long run people will get tired of people screaming about themselves as loud as they can and will look to services that allow them to stay in touch with the people they really care about.

    Thanks for the great post!

  58. Mona says:

    Okay, so...I sign up for sites on impulse pretty often. And by that I mean all the fucking time. No registration form is safe, I must fucking fill out everyone that I come across, whether on purpose or by "accident." I sign up for shit I don't even want to sign up for, just for the sake of having signed up, making me a member of one more stupid fucking thing I don't even like. That's kind of how my relationship (if you could call it that) with Twitter began, however long ago. I signed up, logged in, and stared at the screen totally lost and confused. I just didn't fucking get it. I had no idea what it was when I signed up. I was clueless. Hadn't ever heard of it. There was just some screen that said "what are you doing?" That was it. Nothing else. I remember thinking to myself that it must have been the briefest profile I'd ever encountered on any site ever. My first response to that question is pretty funny. I was clueless. Like, right now? What am I doing right at this moment? Uh...okay. So I answered, and then stared at the screen some more totally fucking lost. It just didn't click. So I logged out and moved onto something else. Forgot all about it until I went to sign up for it again, and realized that the username I was trying to register had already been taken...months ago, when I had signed up for it the first time. Yeah, I'm that bad...woo, anyhow. So I decided I should try and figure it out again. This time I had more patience with it and was determined to figure out what the fuck it was. After that day, I started half-ass using it. That brings us up to the present. I don't "update" too often, but every once in a while. There isn't much variation in my activities from one moment to the next, so rather than make up exciting shit I keep quiet unless there is something to actually say. But if you want to know the absolute truth, I STILL don't really get it. I mean, I do. I'm not stupid or something. I understand all the crap about social networking and utilizing it as a business tool and blah blah blah. But when it comes down to it, I'm just as fucking lost as I was that first day. I get it, but I don't get it AT ALL. Then again, Twitter is only one of countless "phenomenons" which I'm not sure why so many people get so damn excited about. Simple things win the hearts of simple people. I think it's kind of amusing, but if it disappeared in the next six months I can't say I would lose sleep. I hope no one actually bothers reading this. My biggest complaint about Twitter is the 140 character limit. I don't like exercises in limiting myself. Should we really even encourage that? Oh well, I guess you can always cheat and write five in a row. Whatever.

  59. Raymond says:

    Great post and a realistic perspective that i can agree with. i like the post so much i can't help but to follow you now on Twitter.

    Being antisocial, i tend to look at social networks with an unhealthy dose of cynicism and the firm belief that they're all pretty much high school incarnate. But i really can't ignore their impact on how people interact with one another now.

    It's also interesting to see the dynamic of social networks shift and evolve over time. And your thoughts, at least to me, point to that.

    i'm a fan.

  60. Thanks Raymond!

  61. I think you're right on with the high-school analogy and like you (though for entirely different reasons) I think high school sucked. All those top people to follow lists are just the twitter version of a high school popularity contest. Besides if you have 5,000 + followers there’s little chance that you’re going to tweet to me, so why should I follow you for a one-way interaction?

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  63. tolga says:

    Couldn't agree more. can you imagine pop culture without phoniness? hence Perez Hilton and Julia Alison. looking at our "idols" all i want to ask is - WHERE IS CULTURE?! and lets not blame technology, thats too much like medieval inquisition calling printing press a demon... its not technology, its capitalist society... why cant we have fun at the bonfire without drinking the koolaid? i would rather be a lonely cynic than waste time chatting with "friends" ive never met in my life, who go DND every 15 minutes to puke their lunch so they can be skinny like the girls on TV and be liked by their "friends"

  64. Marga says:

    Hey! my site is on your blog... pretty cool :D

    I like your blog better than your 'twitts', its nice to read you rant away!

    Thanks Eric

  65. Ranting is way harder in 140 characters or less.

  66. faris says:
  67. Tim Gittos says:

    I too have read Guy's articles, and follow him on Twitter, and I can see what he's getting at, but like you I just can't bring myself to do that sort of thing.

    As much as I agree with your views on what Twitter is becoming, even if everyone comes to their senses and purges, it won't die. If anything, a massive Noah's flood like purge would fix Twitter, focus everybody on it's value again.

    Like it or hate it, Twitter isn't going anywhere.

  68. Rick Mans says:

    Well I do not really get the point you would like to make. You are 'complaining' about the lack of conversation in Twitter, however Twitter is mainly about "What you are doing", not about interaction. That there is interaction is great, however communication is not always interaction.

    Why would Twitter die as everyone has 12k followers? Is it mis usage of the tool? Would TV and radio stations die if they get a factor 5 more viewers or listeners? Probably not, probably they would invest more time in creating proper content (well with current stations in NL that would an utopia ;)) and earn more money on commercials. In my opinion same goes for Twitter: if you get more followers more people can read your tweets and your circle of influence could increase (could, since following does not mean reading).

    On the other hand Twitter is just another Web2.0 ego-medium which is great in sharing opinions and giving you your own soapbox in your virtual Hyde Park. You are just as popular as your last tweet, people are not that stupid to follow someone who does not add value to them.

  69. Umesh says:

    My twitter stream is interesting coz i dont follow people who tweet junk. Its like being a part of a friendly crowd in a party, or a meeting without all that actual noise. At a philosophical level its a place to vent out what i feel at the moment; i dont tweet saying i'm peeing. I've made new friends too just the same way i would do in a party. There is a way of using twitter which you will of course figure out after using it for some time and fine tuning the number people you like to listen to or talk to etc. Just like you will do in real life.

  70. Regina says:

    Interesting vantage point...

    My thoughts are that twitter will evolve or die. The folks seem awful smart and if they stay on their game, it won't die anytime soon. The membership may ebb and flow to an extent and it'll flow and swell as long as the twitter folk are able to maintain credibility by weeding out the suspect abuse of the twitter tool.

    You know the old saying about garbage in garbage out. It's all in what you put into it. I've found folks that I might not have that I have past connections to. On the other hand, jury is still out on whether it will actually bring sales to my company. I will say however that I've had conversations with folks that I would never had access to approach about things that directly effect my business. I'll not just stop using twitter though because well, it's now a part of me. I'll evolve and twitter will too,....or not.

    my two cents,

  71. katbron says:

    "In fact, the whole thing sounds rather pointless and narcissistic when I first explain it." Exactly! I was trying to explain it to two people yesterday and they were looking at me with the above statement's "look" on their faces. I couldn't agree with you more.There are a few good folks I interact with and the rest could care less if we talk - just want to shove stuff at me - links I never open, stuff I never buy. I only follow 200 people - but that is enough to send me into a hyperactive ADD mode. Hope it doesn't die though because I adore it!

  72. Sue says:

    I agree with much of what has been said here, particularly the increasing noise on Twitter and the race to have thousands of followers when really you're only going to be talking to a few people at any one time.

    Building your own network where you can have meaningful conversations with like-minded people is the thing I most love about it – especially when these conversations result in direct contact and the start of new relationships. Now I have a following of almost 1,000, I’ve totally relaxed about the numbers and focus my energy on meeting people who are friendly, interesting and not afraid to get involved in tweet debates. I follow most people who follow me out of courtesy and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    Where it would be easy to get peed off about 'guru' tweeters with 6K+ followers who don't answer your replies to their tweets, you have to get over that. I concentrate on replying to those who have made the effort to reply to me and seek out new followers to get closer to, either because I like their work or like what they say or like that they have lightened up my day or made me aware of something I didn’t previously know about.

    I think rather than Twitter being on the verge of sudden death, genuine users are increasingly savvy. It’s cool to have a large number of followers, that way you gain respect for being actively involved and having interesting things to say. The key is to create and nurture your own meaningful networks and set a good example generally – this can only reflect well on you, on those you tweet with and the business you represent.

    Long live Twitter!

  73. Pingback: Still Pondering Twitter « Communication in a Web Saturated World

  74. Great article.
    I've tried a couple of times to actually 'use' Twitter, but it just seems like a distraction. Plus, a little mystery is never a bad thing - broadcasting a breakdown of my daily activities sounds about as boring, well, as my daily activities are.

  75. Matt says:

    I don't KNOW if you're right...but I HOPE you're right!

  76. Rob says:

    Hey Eric,
    I'm a bit late to the dance. Thanks for the nod, hah! I am starting to feel the same way. I follow people I admire. If they follow me back I am flabberghasted, your self included.

    As of late though I am seeing that there is a major push towards hundreds of followers and the person follows 3. It takes away from the conversation and morphs from being a communication tool to a podium. Thanks for making me feel like not the only one.

  77. Agreed. For a few people like Seth Godin it would be understandable to see many thousands of followers. He's a fascinating guy and says smart things. In fact, I'd follow him, but interestingly enough, he doesn't seem to use Twitter.

    For the rest of us however, we have to accept that things like Twitter don't scale very well. We can only manage so many relationships. I personally prefer to engage in ones where we actually speak with one another in some way or another. :-)

  78. Rob says:

    The only major corporation I follow is Marvel. They actually do a good job of engaging individuals, twitter only contest, polls, quick news updates with out too much blog rolling.

    The also engage a lot of their artists off of the record too and promote you following them. So I guess there is some good.

  79. There are certainly plenty of good uses for it, even for corporations. In fact, we use it as a feed of sorts for MakeFive. It spits out the most recent topics on the site, for those interested.

    The trick is to determine if it's about personal communication or a corporate channel. Some seem to confuse this, pretending that they are speaking with individuals when they're in fact broadcasting.

  80. David Parr says:

    "Is twitter really worth it when nobody ever replies to my questions or they completely ignore my answer to theirs. Formal discussion please!"

    I have been asking myself this recently.

  81. Interesting thoughts. I've heard of twitter but never used it before and wasn't sure at all what it was. I use facebook and linkedin and i think those networking site can be really useful tools, but i don't have much experience with any others.

  82. A subject that I can see both sides of the argument. I'm gonna poll this on Tuesday on my site. Hope you don't mind me linking to this piece.

  83. By all means. :-)

  84. Jamie says:

    interesting post...and I absolutely love your writing style & sense of humor. ;)

    I especially find this post interesting as I just started on Twitter a few weeks ago. I arrived pretty late to the party, and I'm quickly realizing all the things that you touched on in your post.....

  85. Peter says:

    speaking of a tool that works for smaller groups more readily... we started using Co-op from Iridesco internally ( and it's done wonders for our communications and productivity... definitely worth checking out.

  86. Pingback: Taking The Time To Turn Out Tweets Using Twitter | In All Reality

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  88. Cory O'Brien says:

    I don't think Twitter is going to die, but I do thing it's going to drastically change as people realize that just increasing numbers for the sake of increasing numbers isn't actually delivering them the value that they want Twitter to deliver, and so they return the service to its roots.

    Twitter is about conversation, and you can increase the number of people that you converse with, and you can interject the occasional message about this or that that you're working on, but you can't just use it as a tool or as another media channel forever because eventually the well of new and naive people will run dry.

    In the long run, those that provide real value will prevail, and those that don't will need to adopt or die.

  89. Calítoe.:. says:

    "Twitter is “high-school” and man, I hated high-school."

    I've always felt Twitter was not for me. That metaphore has made my day. :D

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  91. DT says:


    This is probably the best post I have read on the future of Twitter. You are quite correct in your observations. As I am feeling the same way that Twitter is just eating up people I really want to follow. Not only that if you follow the stars or power users, you just get flooded by their "Twitter Diarrhea".

    Just as an experiment I am going to Twitter this post and see how many people are actually listening...

  92. Cusswords....just let 'em roll (one my my favorite Too $hort songs). The cursing doesnt bother I found your blog because I follow Guy Kawasaki and he tweeted one of your posts. I follow most people that follow me, except the 1cosmetics and more recently the girls who only have one tweet with a url to those really annoy me. Just my two cents.

  93. ran6110 says:

    Hey Eric,

    Great post, but i don't see Twitter dying anytime soon. Strangely there is a pent up need for this kind of service and currently Twitter is filling it. I don't understand it but i do use it daily.

    I follow Kawasaki also, almost removed him though because what he had to say just wasn't interesting. Then he changed and I've kept him but I've never used his service.

    On a semi-regular basis I go through my list of followers/friends and weed out those that haven't caught my attention for a while. When I do this I post a message to them so if they wish they can drop me also.

    For me Twitter isn't going to die but it is evolving (at least with the group I follow) and has gotten much better.

    Swearing? Well, I was raised differently, I was always taught that adults can do anything they want but know when not to do some things.

    To me when you use some of the words and phrases you've used in this post you diminish your self and the conversation. It sounds like someone in high school trying to prove their an adult. But I'll defend you right to do so!!!

  94. Everything has to die.

    Twitter has not been diagnosed with a terminal illness. If it dies of old age symptoms, it has ways to go beyond 6 months of life that you gave the bird.

    Anything less than 6 months must be on fate to take in a head on crash.

  95. Pingback: Twitter: ¿qué puedes contar que pueda interesar al resto? « Sin Futuro y Sin Un Duro

  96. Jenean says:

    LOVE the honesty and, quite frankly, I feel the same, though I don't 'friend' based on someone friending me. I check their profile and blog before I friend. If I like what they are about or think I can learn from them I will friend them. Simple as that.

    Great post :)

  97. I think you are partly correct.

    I do not think Twitter will die. Like you said,

    "Alternately, we may just start using Twitter better."

    I just think the "shit" will disappear. So it will die a different way.

  98. Pingback: Leading and Following: Overwhelmed by the Noise on the Internet

  99. I'm glad I found your blog, you are an excellent writer!

  100. Bing Futch says:

    Great article, Eric - and I mostly agree with you. Sitting here tonight, having finished my work for the day and popping around the various channels and meme-stations and twit-pods (does anyone ever find the labels associated with Twitter vaguely demeaning? "Tweeple"? Really?) it really does seem like a lot of one-way conversations. That and so many folks are in the business of "social media" and "life coaching" but their conversations are saying something entirely different.

    On the other hand - as a small network tool for connecting with people who really do want to interface, exchange ideas and learn from one another, it's, as they say, a "killer app" - and even though it may die a quick and painful death at the hands of the "I'm making an omlette, don't you care?" generation, the concept will survive and be utilized better in another platform, I'm sure.

    Having said that, I'm gonna go follow you now. If Twitter needs anything, it needs people willing to speak honestly about its potential. Kudos.



  101. Yasser says:

    i like twitter and i still believe it will make tonnes of cash, i just don't know when....

    but i do hope, for everyone's sake..

    it's soon.

  102. cpawl says:

    Twitter was always dead and always high school only the juniors that it was ever important. Personally I could careless what everyone I know is doing - when I wonder I call them and say, "Hey man I was thinking about you... what are you doing?"

  103. Edoardo says:

    yep, you'r right, twitter is maybe the most "schizofrenic" web 2.0 application
    there's no real dialogue on it, just non-sense sms...
    it's like a mad status bar, just like facebook one!

  104. Pingback: twitter is going to die | Think and Succeed!

  105. Web Designer says:

    What are we going to do with so many social networking sites. People are no longer going outdoors just staying indoors to chat on their PC. What a pathetic situation. Long gone are the adventure days.

  106. Pink says:

    The article was long...but i read it.

    But some comments were way too long so i skipped it.

    It would be beautiful if we could regulate comments section to 140-160 characters, twitter-style. Did i hear, irony?

  107. carlnunes says:

    Twitter is what you make it. So far Twitter has allowed it self to be exploited. I think a lot of us forget Twitter is more of an experiment and another free system where they will capitalize on the data collected and sell information to other organizations for marketing purposes.

    If you don't like blocking spam, maybe try a service like Status(no plug intended) .

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  110. Michael says:

    Couldn't agree more (apart from the Guy Kawasaki part). I had a recent purge, and felt pretty bad. Then went back to reciprocating follows.

    Purest folly.

    I am now at the stage where I need to either unplug entirely and call it a day (few days and haven't missed it) or have a purge to make Stalin look on in envy.

    At some point Twitter went from being a great source of new ideas, casual banter with people I liked and a kind of delicious-to-your-doorstep, to being an utter waste of screen real estate and source of nausea at people's propensity to self-promote and feign interest in an effort to further their own ends. So, at the moment, it brings out the curmudgeon in me. Sure I could play a more active role in managing my account blah blah, but once upon a time I didn't used to have to, people were just... cooler, back in the day.

    I'm of the old fashioned opinion that decent content made well promotes itself far better than any amount of pseudo-networking brown-nosed post-highschool contact-harvesting.

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  112. Frantic Rock says:

    Well man, it's november of 2009, and twitter is the #13 traffic ranked site in the US and in the world. So it definitely didn't die. But I - like you do not see much appeal in it. I followed Guy Kawasaki on twitter, and he posts a whole bunch of stuff about every topic you can think of. Most of it is cool new stuff - and it's OK if you're into new ideas.

  113. I like Twitter, and think it's a great way to broadcast (really, narrowcast) personal and business messages of various sorts.

    What irks me about it is that some people actually think of Twitter as a proper discussion facility. Maybe I'm "old school", but I think message boards (and their brethren) still kick ass in this area. Even when I've had a back-and-forth with someone on Twitter, it has never felt like a complete conversation, with its 140 character limits and no specific location of our full convo so others can easily contribute. I feel like all conversations, even important ones, just get lost in the thing.

    Some webheads like to drool over a seeming general lack of structure (not to mention new, shiny objects -- there's a syndrome for that), but the reality is that it isn't always good for all potential uses. And trying to make it good for all uses is stretching it well beyond its original utility to the point of it all just not making much sense design-wise.

    Twitter isn't going to die. It's just going to become a social utility that some take serious in various ways, while most others will continue to ignore it. And both sides will be happy with their decision.

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