COLUMN: Twitter condenses life to a mere 140 characters or fewer
The social networking Web site Twitter is growing as fast as ever, and it doesn’t look like the growth will stop anytime soon. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, allow me to elucidate: Twitter is a Web site that allows users to communicate with whomever they choose (friends, family, complete strangers, etc.) via “tweets,” or short messages consisting of no more than 140 characters.
What you just read is over 400 characters with spaces, which begs the question: What could one possible write that does not exceed the character limit and still be of any value?
Not only are the hordes of these “microbloggers” condensing their entire day or week into a sentence, they are abbreviating inane catchphrases and turning them into ready-to-use acronyms.
One of the more popular abbreviated phrases is “FML,” an acronym used to convey extreme displeasure: enough to ostensibly ruin the life of the user.
Some of you may be wondering why the condensing of information is a problem at all, as most of the followers of a single Twitter user typically know the person they are following in real life, allowing them to understand and keep up with that user’s life without Twitter.
But what I find strange is the number of Twitter users who also have Facebooks and/or Myspaces.
Is a friend supposed to start at Myspace, read a blog, move on to Facebook to look at a note or online quiz results and, finally, read a tweet?
It’s striking how actual contact with another human being is passed over in favor of a comment on Twitter.
Those who are members of the social networking trifecta are allowing the world to get a cursory summation of their entire life.
But is this a good thing? Probably not.
Many people aren’t smart enough to censor their posts, fomenting dramatic Internet wars, opening themselves up for ridicule, and/or being subjected to criticism or termination at the workplace.
What really eludes me is Twitter’s popularity, because the Web site is incredibly useless.
Every tweet could be a Facebook status or Myspace post, yet the number of users is still rising.
And something I find very strange is the site’s term for subscribers: followers. Religions have followers; Web sites should have subscribers or “friends,” not “followers.”
Does the title given to subscribers make the one being subscribed to a nominal “leader?”
It can be said that Twitter is a site that provides users with a false sense of importance to justify their pointless tweets.
One can only imagine the future of social networking sites in the vein of Twitter — an entire week condensed into a single symbol or character, perhaps a symbol created by the Web site itself.
Perhaps the future of Internet communication will be based entirely on symbols, extending human languages.
Of course that is purely speculation, but look at Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”
Many of the technological advances that were purely speculation have now, in some version or another, become a reality.
These include interactive television, the “Seashell” ear pieces, both analogues, to the contemporary Wii and iPod.
If you really want to get people to read about your life, start writing real blogs, or better yet, write a biography. Sites like Twitter contribute to an ongoing abbreviation of facts, turning information into footnotes.
Oh, and be sure to check out The Oklahoma Daily at twitter.com/oudaily.