I must be getting old. I still don’t understand what Twitter is for.

Or most of the other social websites that are out there. Twitter is wildly popular, but it seems like the sort of thing you’d use if you didn’t have a blog. Here’s what it’s for according to their about page:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Why? Because even basic updates are meaningful to family members, friends, or colleagues—especially when they’re timely.

  • Eating soup? Research shows that moms want to know.
  • Running late to a meeting? Your co–workers might find that useful.
  • Partying? Your friends may want to join you.

With Twitter, you can stay hyper–connected to your friends and always know what they’re doing. Or, you can stop following them any time. You can even set quiet times on Twitter so you’re not interrupted.

Twitter puts you in control and becomes a modern antidote to information overload.

As much as my mother loves me dearly, I’m not sure she’d really give a shit to know that I’m, at this very moment, eating soup. My co-workers would probably appreciate a phone call over a twitter entry and if I’m partying then my friends probably already know about it. In short it sounds like a service that promotes the sharing of trivial minutiae at a level that makes blogging look like high journalism in comparison.

The only reason I’m even thinking about it at the moment is because of this TechCrunch entry about it wherein they talk about how Twitter is suffering from major problems with high traffic loads. Whereas Twitter fans usually bitch up a storm when the service fails lately they’ve been doing something else: switching to a competitor:

But that magic is created by the simple Reply feature – when you add “@TechCrunch” to a Twitter message, it tells me you are saying something directly to me, to start a new conversation or reply to an existing one. Without Reply, Twitter turns into a one way telephone conversation. Pulling the feature out is equivalent to a frontal lobotomy – Twitter is still walking around, but there’s a blank stare in its eyes.

So why aren’t people screaming about the feature being gone? Because this time, they’re just heading over to Friendfeed to have those very same conversations. Friendfeed for most users was just a place to bookmarks all their activities on other social networks. Now, more and more, it’s a place that people start conversations. The early adopters got that a while ago. Now, the not so early adopters are using it as a Twitter replacement, too.

As an example the author links to an entry he made on FriendFeed that spawned a whole conversation. It’s a one sentence entry about how he should be blogging, but keeps looking at the ocean and thinking of playing with his dog. It has 40 some odd replies, none of which are more than a sentence or two long themselves.

It appears, to my eyes anyway, to be a form of mini-blogging and I’m not sure why you wouldn’t just use a blog to do it. I mean, I can understand why he didn’t post something like that to TechCrunch, but for me it seems like it’s redundant when I already blog about whatever trivial thing catches my attention anyway. It just makes for another site someone would have to go to or subscribe to in order to catch up on what I’m following. I already feel bad enough about the fact that I’ve been relying on Google Reader sharing to pass along items I can’t be bothered to blog about.

And what the fuck is Facebook all about anyway? According to their site:

Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.

OK, so how is that different from what Twitter says it does? You can’t see much of the service without signing up, but it looks like a less obnoxious version of MySpace and MySpace always struck me as the white trash equivalent of blogging only with even more inane content than the average blog and a design aesthetic bordering on the criminal.  Is Facebook more like LinkedIn? I do have a profile on LinkedIn because it appears aimed more at networking for possible jobs, but I’ve not done a very good job of setting up my profile yet.

As I said, maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting old, but I just don’t get the point of all these services. At least not if you already have a blog to call home. It just seems like it makes for more places people have to go to find out what you’re up to when they could just pick up the phone or drop you an email and say, “Where the hell have you been?”


14 thoughts on “I must be getting old. I still don’t understand what Twitter is for.

  1. You’re not alone.

    I can see the utility of a micro-blog like twitter as an alternate means of emergency communication, perhaps particularly so if you have a client on your smartphone. It’s probably been used for this by some unfortunates.

    Also, I can vaguely see using their service for server monitoring purposes and submit low-security status messages to a private twitter feed. Machine to human communication, if you will. The barrier of entry is rather low, though, and there’s no reason not to roll your own—unless you absolutely want to use a twitter client that runs on your smartphone. Anybody sense a trend?

    By and large, I simply don’t get twitter. It’s not that micro-blogs can’t be useful, but the “I’m taking a dump” “Here’s comes the paper” “Should I wad it or fold it?” monologues that just aren’t my thing.

  2. The only good use I’ve seen of Twitter is for the continuing adventures of Othar, Gentlemen Adventurer.

    Everyone else seems to be trying to let everyone know that they went to store five minutes ago but couldn’t find the exact brand of milk they wanted.

  3. I really don’t get Twitter, it seems kind of mundane and filled with minutia.

    Facebook is Myspace but cleaner, a place to link up to friends, post pictures, play games with each other, etc. It’s good for finding old classmates, etc.

    LinkedIn is a business connections form of Facebook/MySpace.

  4. I haven’t found a need for Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, or other similar sites; and I seldom see much use for IM.  I prefer email for things that can wait, sending messages to somebody’s cell, or for near real time communications to a group when doing something like a major upgrade involving several people; I prefer using a telephone for immediate things.

  5. I’ve never even heard of Twitter until now, and I thought I kept fairly abreast of such things.

    In the site’s defense, I think it’s one of those things that’s perhaps a fairly good idea… for a certain sort of person, occasionally, if the technology were good enough to automate a lot of it. If I could turn on such mundane monitoring of my location and activities and a device could figure out what all that crap that I was doing was, for instance, I could see a low level of interest in something like that. Turning on an indicator to tell people I made it safely home each day, if I didn’t have to pay any attention to it, might not be so bad even if I don’t think anyone would care. Having a device/software that could tell me if my drive home was taking longer, or if a route I was taking to some place wasn’t optimum, or just tracked how often I was too lazy to cook dinner and eating out, might be useful just as a “track myself” sort of data that I wouldn’t otherwise pay attention to.

    The idea that anyone needs to take the time out to relate to other people what they’re doing though? That’s insane. That’s the sort of bullshit we all grow up and get out of the house to get over, “Mom, I’m out eating with friends. Don’t call the police.” Even for kids I can’t see the utility, because if my kids need to report shit like that I want to hear it from them personally because I wouldn’t want them to get their friends to do it, or else I’d want their phone lowjack telling me it where I could lock them out of fussing with it.

  6. Really can’t see the point of Facebook.  My wife is on it, so I joined to do the silly things, but people who (might) know my brother want me to be freinds with them. 

    Now my wife has a good use for it- organising a reunion of ex pupils for her old schools 50th anniversary, where she is now a parent governor, but otherwise some of the stuff people do-
    “John has poked you”
    John can fuck off.

  7. Yeah, I joined MySpace a while back and touched base with old roommates from the 90s and that sort of thing. Then I canceled my account a few weeks ago, because I realized I really didn’t need to be in touch with those people I hadn’t really known in a more than a decade.

  8. Social networking sites are kind of annoying, and MySpace is the 21st century’s equivalent of a shitty Geocities Limp Bizkit fansite from 1998.

    I’ve always found Twitter to be more obnoxious than MySpace, though, because of its obsession with constant, immediate, and irrelevant microupdates. Many blogs focus on topics other than the bloggers personal minutiae, but Twitter is designed to do nothing but feed the poster’s vanity, far as I can tell.

    This Penny Arcade comic pretty much sums it up.

  9. Well, since I use both Twitter and Facebook, perhaps I should throw in my thoughts.

    Twitter has a couple of uses, at least for me. It allows you to essentially have IM conversations with a small group of friends, instead of individually. You post, they all get the tweet, someone responds, everyone gets it and so on. This works, primarily if you have witty friends who aren’t likely to tweet about their latest trip to the bathroom.

    It can also be useful for following the creative process or just the day to day activities of certain “celebrities” that you might find amusing or interesting. For instance, I receive tweets from Warren Ellis, Ben Templesmith and Wil Wheaton. These are often amusing little breaks in my day. It helps that i have my phone set to receive tweets.

    A couple examples of amusing tweets below:

    warrenellis   @BrianReed Unearthing old characters for Marvel to see if they’re worth reactivating will clip five years off your life. Trust me.

    warrenellis  Because six hours later you’re all “ah, yes, Flying Coyote Whore who some drunk invented for Luke Cage to fuck in 1975, I see potential..”

    warrenellis  And a day later you’re, “geezer, that guy who used to deliver the mail to The Fantastic Four, there’s totally a miniseries there…”

    warrenellis And then your kid starts calling you “Scary Daddy” and your girl won’t let you touch her and you see Stan Lee when you try to jerk off.

    warrenellis But you can’t jerk off and suddenly you’re living in the woods and you don’t remember why and someone seems to have pissed in your clothes.

    warrenellis But you really want to write that story about the voodoo chicken guy from those old Marvel comics but old women are flinging turds at you.

    And cops are beating you up every night and you get raped by a hobo with a face like Roseanne who keeps saying “Cough on it, John.”

    warrenellis  And why? Because you decided to research old Marvel comics. Just walk away, Reed. Or you may never walk the same again

    As for Facebook, yep, mostly a less obnoxious MySpace. I use it, along with MySpace, because they have both helped me get back into contact with old friends. I don’t spend much time with either, though.

  10. I’m currently indeed using twitter partially as a blog replacement, because I’m still too lazy to set up WordPress. It’s more immediate than a blog, even more immediate than comments on blogs, and while I don’t write about dumps, I do like to rant and do everything I don’t use del.icio.us for – thoughts, striking insights.

    I do write in German (because I don’t think anybody outside Switzerland could honestly say he’s interested) about stuff that is a) low-security and b) could be interesting to anybody, potentially. Like, my thoughts about how fancy the Cover Flow feature of the iPod is, or which games I like at the moment and why, or what program annoys me for what reason.

    It’s stuff that wouldn’t warrant a whole blog entry mostly, too – in that sense it’s not entirely a blog replacement. I don’t think it’s a social contact replacement either, because I’m actually reminded of how long I didn’t see my friends anymore when I use twitter :p

    But it certainly is a microcosmos, I didn’t really see what twitter is before I started using it. I guess Facebook is similar in that aspect, but that one is too mainstream for me I think. Twitter still has this “on the edge” feel, Facebook is just MySpace with a different name…

  11. Thanks for the insights. I at least have a somewhat better understanding of what they’re used for now. I don’t have a clue what I’d use them for, but at least I’m not completely clueless as to the purpose.

  12. The stuff KPatrickGlover posted is funny, but that’s about as good as it gets as I far as I can tell.  If you have a slightly manic personality and can write a funny line or two, it’s great.
      I just ignore it, mostly.  I’m no technophobe(well, maybe just a little) but I got rid of my first and only cell phone for the same basic reason I don’t use Twitter.  I just don’t need that level of immediacy.  To borrow slightly from elwedriddsche, it quickly got to the point where I realized that some people can’t even take a shit by themselves without leaving a few messages describing the smell and texture. 
    If you read somebody who gives you a chuckle, go ahead and enjoy it.  The vast majority of users that I’ve encountered, admittedly not many, fall well below my entertainment threshold.

  13. Twitter is for people who have alot of time and nothing to do with it.

    Facebook is a more grown up Myspace. Used primarily for setting up shit like reacquainting friends, setting up events/parties, etc.

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