Wednesday, May 1, 2013


My friend Jason sent me a link to the perfect story (except that it's long). It's a piece by Matt Labash in the Weekly Standard, and it says all the things about twitter that I think and a lot of stuff that I never thought of. Labash is an unapologetic techno-troglodyte who has refused, so far, to join what he calls the twidiocracy, a phenomenon he claims is destroying our culture 140 characters at a time.

I appreciate his complaint. If you've ever sat in a restaurant with several acquaintances or young family members only to have them place their phones on the table and not look up from them the whole time you're there, you'll appreciate his complaint, too. Unless, that is, you're one of those people whose social graces have atrophied to the point where it's impossible to carry on a conversation with you because you're unable to detach yourself from your phone long enough to engage an actual human being in an actual dialogue.

Anyway, Labash's essay is long but it's a great read. Here's a sample:
If you haven’t gathered by now, I’m not a Twitter fan. In fact, I outright despise the inescapable microblogging service, which nudges its users to leave no thought unexpressed, except for the fully formed ones (there’s a 140-characters-per-tweet limit). I hate it not just because the Twidiocracy constantly insists I should love it, though that certainly helps. Being in the media profession (if “profession” isn’t overstating things), where everyone flocked en masse to the technology out of curiosity or insecurity or both, I’ve hated it reflexively since its beginning.

But with time’s passage and deliberation, I’ve come to hate it with deeper, more variegated richness. I hate the smugness of it, the way the techno-triumphalists make everyone who hasn’t joined the Borg feel like they’ve been banished to an unpopulated island, when in fact the numbers don’t support that notion. Even after seven years of nonstop media hype, only 16 percent of Internet users tweet, the same as the percentage of 14-49-year-olds who have genital herpes. The difference being that the latter are not proud of their affliction, while the former never shut up about theirs.

I hate the way Twitter transforms the written word into abbreviations and hieroglyphics, the staccato bursts of emptiness that occur when Twidiots who have no business writing for public consumption squeeze themselves into 140-character cement shoes. People used to write more intelligently than they speak. Now, a scary majority tend to speak more intelligently than they tweet. If that’s a concern—and all evidence suggests it isn’t—you can keep your tweets private, readable only by those you invite. But that reduces your number of “followers,” so almost nobody does it. A private Twitter account cuts against the whole spirit of the enterprise—a bit like showing up at a nude beach in a muumuu.
The idea that others should "follow" me as I propound the most banal vacuities and inflict them on all and sundry is absurd, pompous, and narcissistic. It's almost as egocentric, perhaps, as thinking that others should read one's blog.