The Scientific Indian

The 58th edition of Four Stone Hearth, the anthro blog carnival is up. One linked post at Ethblography by Fran, an anthropologist, asserts that twittering means nothing:

Like Wikipedia, then, it is for this reason that Twitter gets under my skin in a most uncomfortable way. It doesn’t mean anything. It is genuinely uninformative, ego-centric and self-obsessed drivel. The audience is no one and everyone; the subject is nothing and everything. I don’t need to know when someone brushes their teeth or takes out the trash or picks their nose. I really don’t. Humanity is exceptionally ridiculous. We seek out freedom of expression as our one and only avenue to universal truth, then we turn it into a free-for-all reality televisionification of daily banality.
I am saddened by the initial hopes that the “idea” of Twitter (though not only Twitter) stirred in me upon discovering it. Its romantic potentiality still calls to me from beyond its disappointing reality. As a quirky tool for relaying to oneself and their friends or strangers some spur-of-the-moment lucidity or lack thereof, it remains (at least) generally amusing, and (at best) even cathartic. I foresaw the temptation of running to Twitter when I coined some spectacularly funny turn of phrase, clever insight or revelation which could so easily be lost among the 50,000 processes running off my mental CPU at any moment.

I don’t agree when the author lumps Wikipedia with twitter (Wikipedia means something, even if most of it is superficial) and when underpant twitters are cited with a frown. However, I think the author’s insight is remarkable. We all (boggers, that is, and who is not a blogger these days…) have felt the urge to post when we suddenly realize – many times a day – what astonishing geniuses we are and what glorious praise shall pour forth when the world knows our genius. Of course, disappointing reality intervenes and normalcy returns. However, the time lost in day-dreaming remains lost. In this time we could have pursued that inspiring thought to a deeper and more fruitful level, which we did not because we decided to expose that thought to the winds and let it wilt.


  1. #1 Julie Stahlhut
    January 15, 2009

    Twitter is Facebook Lite.

  2. #2 Vinod Khare
    January 15, 2009

    I do not agree with the quoted text at all. Wikipedia has become the single largest repository of reliable non-specialist knowledge.

    Twitter on the other hand, serves purposes that people haven’t begun to realize that it serves. The term ‘ambient awareness’ has been coined. The fact, of the matter is, humans like to know what other humans around them are doing. In a workplace, I like to know what my colleagues are having for lunch, who is sick and who bought a new dress. It’s called socializing. These are trivialities but these are what make life engaging for us. Twitter is just an online version of the same thing. The barriers of geography are broken. I can now keep myself aware of the daily lives of my friends regardless of where they live. Ditto with faceboook.

  3. #3 heather
    January 15, 2009

    I also feel twitter is nothing like wikipedia – which is great despite its shortcomings.
    Most of twitter is like the dross in mobile text messages, without even being any use for emergencies.
    Some people might want to know what their colleagues had for lunch or whether someone they know is on a train. Although, even they will surely get bored with this trivia sooner or later.

    I wouldn’t be so dismissive of the value of spreading your great insights (though I doubt that twitter is the best mechanism for transmitting them.) Blog posts and comments can make a deep impression on people’s thinking.
    The internet brings together all human knowledge. There must surely be a good chance that some groundbreaking new fusions of ideas will come out.

  4. #4 Barn Owl
    January 15, 2009

    I suspected that Wikipedia and Twitter were not equally meaningless; however, since I don’t use Twitter (or FriendFeed), I had to do a brief interwebz experiment. I looked at the Twitter feeds for several bloggers whom I respect, and for a couple whom I don’t like.

    All the “tweets” were equally inane and mundane, and I wish I could to regenerate the cortical neurons I lost in the process of performing this stupid experiment. Text diarrhea, IMHO. Sure, it serves a purpose, just like diarrhea serves a purpose: downloading crap. Oh well, at least I know now not to waste any more time/brain cells with Twitter. 🙂

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