Monday, June 8, 2009

Tweet Tweet

Martha Stewart follows Snoop Dogg, apparently.

Yes, this is a post about Twitter.
I've been on Twitter for just over two months.
At first, I signed up for Twitter to use it similarly to the way I used MySpace, as a consumer of content, a spectator. I used MySpace to get updates from bands I liked. I figured I would follow a few choice people on Twitter, but I didn't think I had much to add myself.

In a recent post, Brian Solis of the blog PR 2.0 asked "Is Twitter a Conversation or Broadcast Platform?" The statistics he puts forward suggest that most Twitter users are spectators. 1/4 of users aren't following anybody, and more than 1/3 of users haven't uttered a single tweet. My guess is that many people are driven to the site out of a curiosity that the MSM's preoccupation with Twitter has instilled. Flipping through Us Weekly in the bathroom, I saw a page that compared different celebrities' Twitter styles. So readers of Us Weekly, as well as viewers of CNN, want in. They sign up. They don't know what to do next. They abandon it and become statistics. I too abandoned Twitter.

The next stage in my personal Twitter story was that of broadcaster. I started a new account to tweet my random food cravings: tater tots, chicken salad with craisins and walnuts, meatballs, sweet potato casserole, etc. My friends are all familiar with these cravings I get. And Twitter seemed like a better platform than texting my friends "I want cinnamon sugar pita chips" at 11pm. Around this time, I also started to follow people I know rather than just celebrities, brands, and services. Along with my food craving tweets, I occasionally responded to my friends' tweets.

Then came #lofnotc
On Friday, May 15th Amanda Palmer tweeted:
@amandapalmer i hereby call THE LOSERS OF FRIDAY NIGHT ON THEIR COMPUTERS to ORDER, motherfucker.
I re-tweeted it - the first time I re-tweeted anything. Not even ten minutes later:

@amandapalmer holy shit…judging from replies there’s like 200 of us in the LOFNOTC. what has become of rock n roll? what is wrong with us? i feel shame.
200 soon became 500. People starting using the hashtag #lofnotc so that all our posts would go to one place. #lofnotc soon became a trending topic. People who didn't even know who Amanda Palmer is began to join in. The search results page for #lofnotc began to resemble a chatroom. Amanda designed a t-shirt. We plotted a government takeover. We had a toast.

@amandapalmer i present to you....our official logo, comrades!!!!!!! (yes, that thing on the right is a pizza.) #LOFNOTC

Amanda blogged:
so anyway, there we were, on twitter on a friday night.

we hung out for two hours, came up with a list of things that the government should do for us, created a t-shirt (thank god sean was awake and being a loser with me because he throw up the webpage WHILE we were having our twitter party and people started ordering the shirts - that i designed in SHARPIE in realtime) and a slogan: “DON’T STAND UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT, STAY IN FOR WHAT’S WRONG” (thanks emilyn brodsky).

and basically had a real-time party on the fucking internet. we ended with a long toast to the power of friday night loserdom and drank virtual wine togehter (well, i know MY wine was real. and tasty).
THAT, my friends, is the "collaborative, two-way meaningful dialogue that represents Twitter's greatest promise" that Brian Solis is waiting for.

Amanda Palmer is an inspiration to me in many respects. For the purposes of this post, she is my Twitter Hero. She had been harnessing the power of Twitter long before #lofnotc. She uses it for instant ticket giveaways and organizing impromptu soccer games and pillow-fights on the road. She does Q&A sessions with fans while she's bored on the tour bus. She takes songs requests via Twitter - onstage. Of one surprise gathering she writes,
i twittered some random flashmob-come-say-hi gatherings in australia and was overwhelmed to see that it WORKED.
i would pick out random places on a map nearby and twitter the night before.

i was at a point in auckland when i was just at the end of my rope, barely holding it together and i twittered the night before the show for people to meet me in front of the spiegeltent at 3 the next day.
(i also did this because the shows were not booked as all ages and i was getting heaps of sad emails, so i figured i would give people a chance to at least come and say hi and see me attempt to play the ukulele and get shit signed).
anyway: 10 pm twitter, and by 3 pm the next day, i walked over from my hotel with my ukulele case and was fucking shocked to see a group of over a hundred people.
a little teenage girl who spotted me first ran over and dive-bombed me. i let her. and then a bunch of people ran over and sat down and i just burst into tears. i couldn’t believe how simple it was.
all i had to do was ask, and all these people came, and it was so simple.
But for all its ability to bring people together, it can seem awfully atomizing. I think many people have the love/hate relationship with Twitter that Amanda expresses:
twitter hurts me. but i love it, but i hate it. i am always afraid of running into a human experience-camera-machine.
but it’s so fun. and awful. torn, torn, torn.
we’re all going to die anyway.
In a recent article in the Boston Globe IT professor Tom Davenport is quoted as saying, "As a professor there's a certain 'Decline of the West' aspect to the Twitter idea that you can say anything meaningful in 140 characters." Has this guy ever heard of Hemingway? And one particularly alarmist article from reports:
Rapid-fire TV news bulletins or getting updates via social-networking tools such as Twitter could numb our sense of morality and make us indifferent to human suffering, scientists say.

New findings show that the streams of information provided by social networking sites are too fast for the brain's "moral compass" to process and could harm young people's emotional development.

Before the brain can fully digest the anguish and suffering of a story, it is being bombarded by the next news bulletin or the latest Twitter update, according to a University of Southern California study.

"If things are happening too fast, you may not ever fully experience emotions about other people's psychological states and that would have implications for your morality," said researcher Mary Helen Immordino-Yang.

I don't really buy it that Twitter is hindering our ability for compassion. As I write this, two trending topics on Twitter are "Euna Lee" and "Laura Ling." Aside from sex-tape-spam, the tweets are all outcry, prayers, and petitions for the US journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea.

So that's my post on Twitter. Take it or leave it.

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