donderdag, maart 19, 2009

Dear Twitter followers: this Slow IT column is not about you! Flibbertigibbet

Twitter, a now quickly expanding number of people consider it a gift from heaven. Face it: sooner or later you are fed up with blogging. Having to read and write 10 sentences over and over again, it just starts to get at you doesn’t it? If you are gifted with the attention span of a Flibbertigibbet, having to concentrate that much is a physical hurt. Twitter then, is the solution. For those few, other-worldly hermits that still are not initiated: we are dealing with a massively popular system on the Internet in which you use a maximum of 140 characters to tell something to the outside world. You can also use SMS or your smartphone. Others can subscribe – as followers - to these ‘tweets’ and vice versa.

At its best , Twitter is a magnificent tool for the corporate, collaborative worker of today to effectively stay in touch with a true ecosystem of people, knowledge, insights and events. While tweeting (possibly through a company-restricted variant like Yammer) you find just as easy lightning-fast answers to focused questions as links to new, interesting sources of information. And by carefully calibrating the list of people that you follow, the social network around you becomes more and more valuable.

At its worst however, Twitter happily deteriorates into a universe of randomly chattering, megalomaniac ADHD professionals. Shallowness, straight from the goblet of Total Nothing. Purely for professional reasons, I decided to indulge myself for a few days without any restrictions and filtering in this world of virtual chit-chat. Eventually, I ended up staring agitatedly at the screen, my hollow eyes waiting for the next tweet to arrive. And it never was further away than a few seconds. Another 140 characters to read, another discussion to follow, another subject to have an opinion about, another link to click on. Sometimes, an interesting topic would rush by. More often, it would be of a lamenting irrelevance. Somebody opens up a can of beer. Another tells me every three minutes what song he is playing. A third apparently throws every new thought on Twitter, probably to secure it for eternity. A fourth feels no shame at all in sharing private conversations, lunch dates and the most intimate coaching sessions.

At last, I was able to liberate myself from this maelstrom of tweets. After having some supplementary feeding and a long night of sleep, I could carefully try to read the complete front page of a paper without interruption. Outside, the sun finally announced spring. Then I heard a blackbird sing.

It was the most beautiful sound in the world.

First published on SlowPlanet, as part of my Slow IT series. This is the edited,  English version of a previous column.

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