LJWorld.com weblogs Devin Lowell's Community Journalism Blog

The Trouble with Twitter


      I have a love-hate relationship with Twitter. As a plugged-in millennial that was born into a family of old-school journalists, I find myself simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by the social networking site. Let me break it down.

      Why I love Twitter: It represents democratization of the media. Twitter has become a platform for self-expression for anyone with Internet access, and globally, that means the opening for individuals previously closed-off societies, like China or Iran. The events in Iran this summer showed the world that innovation has quite the shot at outwitting tyranny. Twitter became a lens for the world to view chaos in a way we might never have had otherwise. Every Iranian gained the potential to be a storyteller, for good or for ill. Some died telling the rest of us their narrative. As sad as it might make me to admit, Twitter helped shape international discourse.

      Another way Twitter is democratizing media is user control. Retweeting? User-created. Hashtags, the little # by a tweet? Same thing. Twitter lacks a faceless corporate overlord like Facebook or Google (both of which expressed interest in its purchase), so it is an entity beholden only to it's users. Those users have taken a very simple little thing and increased its complexity tenfold, into the beast it is today. One Wired magazine article on the subject said that "Twitter left a ball and a stick in a field and lurked on the sidelines as its users invent baseball." That, I do love.

      Why I hate Twitter: Nearly the same reason I love it, because anyone can post anything on it. Like all forms of media, it has already engendered its own absurdist scandals. Twitter's use by celebrities has become self-satirizing. Do I care about Miley Cyrus's very public breakup with the social media site? No. Have I seen her "Twitter rap?" Yes. Even an actor whose work I respect, Stephen Fry, had a silly public disagreement with another Twitter user.

      I will admit to being a media elitist. In general, I like the things I consume to come from sources that have something interesting or worthwhile to say, i.e., not Ashton Kutcher. I don't even tweet myself, because I don't ever have anything I care to say to the pittance of followers I have. (Good move, guys and gals.) Even worse, is when traditional media outlines use the site as a source for their information. (I'm looking at you, CNN.) So our public discourse becomes even more cluttered with trash as a result. That, I do hate.

      So in conclusion...well, I'm not really sure. For now, I will continue to follow Neil Gaiman, Wil Wheaton, Gabriel from Penny Arcade, and Stephen Colbert. (I know, I'm a nerd.) And I'm very intrigued as to where this whole Twitter thing is headed. Maybe it will merge with the new Google Wave and create an information dystopic Panopticon with zero privacy. Who knows? I sure don't.


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