We should know by now that journalists—especially those who write for major publications—have a tendency to write screeds lamenting the proliferation of social media on society; then years later, after opening an account on the platform and having it verified, doing the exact the same thing they lambasted everyone else for doing.
So if the recent screeds about how Twitter is a dead medium—written by journos who only were on the service to brag about connections to other scribes in the business, and now lament the loss of access and interaction with them—are any indication, it only seems fair to point out that many in that pundit/journo industry have been trying to kill it since 2009.
Twitter’s death has been predicted by so many people since then—when people first started paying attention to Twitter in the first place—and the reasons so varied since then, that it seems like everyone was just trying to presage the next fall of MySpace. Twitter was dead because not that many users interact, there were bugs, there are too many spam accounts, The Failwhale, it’s not a real business, it’s taking too much revenue from ads, Old Twitter sucks, New Twitter sucks, the interface sucks, too many people tweeting about Justin Bieber, too many hashtags…
Mark McKinnon wrote in that same edition of Newsweek/Daily Beast in 2009 that, because U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) had started tweeting, the service had “jumped the shark”. Doesn’t exactly stop him or his organization from using the service—and the journo connections there—to promote the No Labels political group, but there you go.
And here it is, five months into 2014, and Twitter is still here, and we still have people trying to kill it.
I read this piece, and my thoughts are that the authors are writing specifically from their own point of view, and their usage of Twitter was couched in trying to be friends with other journalists in the know, and this harkening for the Good Old Days of Twitter—when Roger Ebert and Rob Delaney were monarchs—seems rather individualised.
Yet these lamentations in the Atlantic piece about self-promotion, coming from people who probably self-promote their work there (hello?); the complaints about unverified content (which you don’t have to click on, and can easily research and put down); the statement that Twitter is a space that “we” have outgrown (meaning, these two will delete their accounts? Not likely)…and yet I’m supposed to believe that the impetus for all of this is because Ezra Klein isn’t tweeting (or retweeting their shit) anymore, and will be amongst the first people to leave?
No. Just…no. That’s not the apogee of Twitter, ladies and gentlemen. Really, no one singularity is that important to the medium that they can’t disappear and the service stops being a useful tool for other people. Not even Bieber has that much pull.
And this idea that it’s difficult to have productive conversations is complete nonsense. If people can have sex in direct messages, you can still discuss feminist theory or discrimination or political science on Twitter, despite the character limit. You also have to understand: you have to regulate those conversations by regulating your feed. You can also have stupid conversations on Twitter. Just as you can in real life. The service wasn’t intended to be a high-minded place of exchange of ideas and ideals for high-minded people; it was designed with the intention to communicate, and the level of communication is determined by the users. The diversity of that communication is what makes it what it is, what it has been, and what it will be. And if you can’t go outside your circle and try to communicate with others, when that’s what you claim you want to do, well…your bubble’s gonna get a little boring.
Maybe it’s just my reading of it, but it seems like the complaint isn’t that Twitter is dead or boring or whatever, it’s that the people who complain about it aren’t using it effectively enough to make it interesting for themselves. And that’s not anyone’s fault but theirs. It’s not a eulogy for Twitter, but an asseveration of their limitations using the service. Theirs, not everyone else’s.