Twittering about Twitter
The word Twitter has a whole new significance in the post-modern world of ‘hyper-connectivity’ and ‘social networking’ with the sudden popularity of twitter.com
For those of you who haven’t already cottoned on to this latest social networking phenomenon, twitter is basically an online form of text messaging except the messages are largely rhetorical and can be read by whoever chooses to ‘follow’ you. At least that’s how I see it.
If you’re more familiar with Facebook, you’ll know that there is a ‘current status’ feature whereby you can keep your contacts informed of what you are doing or thinking at the time. Though quite amusing at times it has always seemed a bit pointless to me because it is quite obvious what you are doing – you are checking your facebook account to see how many of your ‘friends’ have a more interesting life than you and then you are desperately trying to think of something witty to describe your current status to make them think that you too are equally interesting and funny. Or is that just me?
Anyway, Twitter is a yet another online community which is simply dedicated to asking and answering that very question: What are you doing now? In response, I am thinking of starting up a similar website to ask the question: What could you be doing, or even What should you be doing if you weren’t wasting your time telling everybody under the sun about each and every inane thing that you are doing at any given moment?
Maybe my compulsion to rant about this latest craze (please let it be a craze) is due to the fact that I am currently reading Ben Elton’s Blind Faith, a superb if unsubtle satire about a post-apocalyptic world where any attempts at privacy and modesty are considered blasphemous and blow-by-blow accounts of everybody’s personal life are publicly shared for all to read, see and hear!
As I learned about the nature of Twitter, I realized that elements of Elton’s desperately depressing vision of the future may not be so fantastical after all - the main character has just been ‘forced’ to post the statutory video of his wife giving birth on their compulsory family blog. I mean, I accept there is a reasonable fascination with wanting to know how other people live their lives, hence the huge popularity of reality TV and fly-on-the-wall style drama as a source of mainstream entertainment. But where will it all end I wonder? Will we become so obsessed with each other’s lives that we will all be living in Big Brother style houses, openly and shamelessly sharing every moment of our previously private lives?
The question I’m really left asking myself is not so much why people want to read about what others, famous or otherwise, are doing all the time – addictive voyeurism and cult following is nothing new – but why anyone believes that anyone else would be remotely interested in their average daily routines in the first place.
Have we really become so egotistical and celebrity-obsessed as a society that we feel the constant need to publicly voice every minute detail of our personal lives? Or is it a question of modern-day insecurity that we feel continually compelled to reach out to anyone that might be bored enough to take any notice? Or am I – and this is probably the most likely – simply missing the point? Perhaps it’s just making harmless use out of the technology that is now available to us.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no technophobe by any means. Living abroad from my family as I do, I welcome the fact that high-speed broadband connection allows us to have face-to-face communication in real-time, whenever we want, and what’s more, for free! However, I have no desire to keep them informed of my every waking move, not that they would want to know anyway, since they all have enough to do managing their own equally busy lives.
Which brings me to my next point. If everyone is so focused on telling others about what they are doing, aren’t they doing it at the expense of actually enjoying the moment which they are at pains to share with everyone? It’s like when you see overly keen tourists with their eyes glued to the viewfinders of their oversized camcorders, eagerly documenting every second of what they are seeing, or rather what they are not seeing since they are too busy trying to film it. Although, I have to confess that I have been guilty of this myself in the past. Desperate to record the key moments of my children growing up so that they will be able to watch it for themselves in years to come, I have been close to missing the actual event myself, or at least not being relaxed enough to really enjoy it.
But I digress. Of course it’s fun to share ‘occasional’ snapshots of our lives with our nearest and dearest who aren’t present at the time, whether it be a text message or photo from a mobile phone or a quickfire update on Twitter. I think what disturbs me about Twitter though is the appeal it will have to those who sense they are creating a considerable following. Stephen Fry, for example, currently has over a quarter of a million people virtually stalking him, while he similarly follows over 54,000 other people. Where does he get the time?
You can imagine celebrities getting quite competitive over how many people they have following them and having to be consistently quirkier and more amusing in order to satisfy and retain their devotee disciples. But celebrities aside, what about the likes of ordinary folk like you and me? Is anybody outside our normal circle of family and friends really going to care that we’ve just had the strangest feeling of déjà vu or that we’re so glad it’s Friday so that we can crack open the Chardonnay.
Well, on a final note I’ve decided it’s best just to sit back and enjoy the Chardonnay and take pleasure in the fact that nobody else is watching or listening and therefore nobody need know that you’re actually already on your second bottle. And as for all those other extremely funny witticisms and inspired trains of thought that you might have been thinking of languishing on the world – why not write them all down in a personal diary. Who knows? You might really be famous one day and then everyone will want to read them anyway.