For the past year or so, all of my geek friends (and I have A LOT of geek friends) have been hounding me to join Twitter. I'm already on Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, MySpace, Bebo and every other social networking site that some starry-eyed entrepreneur launched during the great social networking gold rush of '05. I also blog, I use Flickr, I steal music and movies, I play online poker and Scrabble, and I'm addicted to Internet porn. Do I really need another way to waste my time in front of the computer? According to the growing legions of Twitterers, the answer is a resounding yes.
So, last week, I sat down and filled out a short form. The next thing you know, I, too, am a Twitterer. When I logged on to my Twitter homepage, I expected to find the greatest advancement in communication since speech. I expected to find the true meaning of cyber life. I expected to find Nirvana. I didn't. What I found was a tool for posting and reading status updates. That's it!
There's this scene in The Kids in the Hall's classic film Brain Candy, where a pharmacist announces his next big idea for a drug. In a large board room surrounded by executives, he proclaims, "Well, I've invented a pill that gives worms to ex-girlfriends." The CEO asks him what's positive about that and he responds, "Well, it's a pill that gives worms to ex-girlfriends." The CEO then asks him if it could also give worms to ex-boyfriends and he resolutely responds, "This is a drug for the world to give worms to ex-girlfriends!!" That's Twitter - it allows you to post and read status updates. Nothing more, nothing less.
Then why, you may ask, is everybody going so crazy over it? Well, I have this theory - Twitter is a cult. Don't believe me? The readers of your posts, which they refer to as tweets, are called "followers". When you're reading somebody else's tweets, you're "following". They also encourage you to "invite" followers and they "suggest" people you might follow. Isn't that how Scientology operates? Isn't that how Heaven's Gate convinced people to put on Nikes and jump on a comet? If Jim Jones hadn't sipped his own Kool-Aid, I'm pretty sure he'd be sipping the Twitter Kool-Aid.
Another, more plausible theory is that our celebrity-obsessed culture has made humans desperate for recognition and fame. From reality television to gossip blogs, the mainstream media has programmed us to believe that we're nobody unless we're somebody. Unfortunately, most people are either too lazy or too stupid to do anything worthy of recognition. With Twitter, they can just type in what they're thinking, and soon, somebody will know they exist. In their own little microcosm, they will become famous.
IMHO (yeah, I now use internet acronyms), the worst part about Twitter is that users are expected to tweet multiple times each day. There's even an "auto-nudge" feature that reminds you to tweet if you haven't done so in the previous 24 hours. Sadly, people tweet a helluva lot more than once every 24 hours. Who has all this time?? Where do people get a minute every ten minutes to post something? Maybe that's why our economy is in the shitter. Nobody's working, they're all tweeting.
Regardless, I don't care if you're Abraham Lincoln reincarnated as Keith Richards and you're banging the love child of Rosa Parks and Adolf Hitler, you're still not interesting enough to post thirty-eight updates a day. Subsequently, most tweets are mundane or redundant or just plain disturbing. For example:
"I'm walking from this room into the other room. Maybe later, I'll walk into another room."
"Angelina Jolie has a mustache. Did you see the picture everybody else blogged about 9 hours ago?"
"Bacon tastes better when marinated in human blood. Don't believe me? Try it! Virgin blood works best!"
Also, like Faceholes, Twitterers create and perpetuate idealized versions of themselves and their lives. Everybody is hip and intelligent and successful and happy in the Twittersphere. Nobody ever says they had a bad day because they have severe hemorrhoids and Preparation H just won't cut it. Nobody ever says their tastes in music and film are lame and they never read that book everybody's tweeting about about and, in fact, they haven't read a book since freshman year...of high school. Nobody ever says that their kid was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which is a relief because they thought he was just an asshole.
On Twitter, everything's great. We're not in a depression. Business is booming. Everyone's rich. Everyone travels to exotic destinations. Everyone's in love. Everyone's good looking. Nobody's marriage is about to crumble. Nobody's face is grossly deformed. Nobody's suicidal. Nobody's homicidal. Nobody just contracted syphilis. Nobody just masturbated. Nobody hates Jews. Come on! This isn't the real world. It's a stupid fantasy land Twitterers choose to live in, almost like Second Life or World of Warcraft. Twitterers don't see it that way though.
They see Twitter as this big technological revolution. They see Twitter as the future. The use words like microblogging or short-form journaling to describe their witless activity. Spoiler Alert: they're just posting and reading status updates. It's not a movement, it's a sham. Twitter is sort of like Pabst Blue Ribbon. PBR is a horrible beer that tastes like urine. Because of marketing and press, we've been convinced that it's cool. Now, everybody's drinking it.
Yes, Twitter is stupid. Does that mean I'm going to deactivate my account? Probably not. I, too, am an attention whore. My life is shit, but for a few brief moments, I like pretending that it's not. In 140 word increments, I can convince myself and my followers that I have something important to say. And, if I keep tweeting, maybe one day I could finally start a cult of my own. I'll call it The Branch Gellmidians!