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Comments on the Twitter Phenomenon

Posted on March 16, 2007

TwitterApparently there was a lot, and I mean a lot, of talk about Twitter at SXSW. I guess when Mr. Scoble is a big fan lots of talk, and use of your product, will follow. Twitter seems cool enough. I can alert my friends to where I am or what I am doing via short messages that can be sent via text message, displayed via blog widget, etc. but what I don’t understand is how much some people post on Twitter. It is becoming an addiction for a lot of folks. I know I am in the minority here but I just don’t get Twitter quite yet.

Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users is right there with me and describes the issues I had been thinking about in a much more detailed and entertaining way than I ever could so I won’t recreate the wheel. Check out Kathy’s two posts and I think you’ll rethink the amount of Twitter usage as well:

Ahhhh - I can’t stop there. Here are some of my quick thoughts.

Kathy breaks the issues down to three main points:

  1. Intermittent Rewards Beat Predictable Rewards (Slot Machine Effect)
  2. Feeling of Connectedness
  3. Twitter is a Cause (a decent size one for some) of Continuous Partial Attention

The first reason is more of a psychology thing so I am going to go ahead and trust the psychologists on that one. The second two points are a lot of what I had been thinking about.

Side Note: I still don’t quite get Second Life. I mean, I get it technically and I see it as a good communication device (especially for hearing people speak that I never would be able to in real life) but I don’t see it revolutionizing the world as a lot of people do. Why? Well, quite simply I like my first life and in my free time I’d rather hang out in person or even talk on the phone or via skype rather than spend a lot of time in Second Life. What does this have to do with Twitter? Twitter seems to create the same feeling of connectedness in the brain that Second Life does which is probably why it is catching on.

I’ll admit that I do feel connected when I use the two services. However, I have a nagging thought that I am not so connected when I use them even though I feel connected. Why do I have that feeling? Because it’s true. In the end of the day nothing beats face time (or at least phone time) and that will always be true. There is something that meeting face to face does for us as human beings that nothing can ever replace.

Constant partial attention is another issue that is evident with continuous Twittering. How can I focus on a task or simply think about a problem and how I am going to solve it when I am constantly updating people on my status and receiving updates on theirs? The answer is I can’t focus and I don’t think others can either. A state of continuous partial attention is not a good thing. We need to think deeply at times and focus. It makes us feel good and it also helps us solve intricate problems and come up with new ideas.

So, count me in the minority on this one. Perhaps I am just missing something though and this thing will turn out to be big. I’ve been wrong before and I reserve the right to change my opinion at any time (disclaimers rock!).

A Couple Afterthoughts: 1) Why do I want people to know what I am up to all the time?  2) Twitter is great for use at conferences.  Finding friends at a super busy conference like SXSW can be tough especially because they’ll have their phones off while in sessions (but you know their laptops will be on).


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1 Comment so far
  1. JakeP March 18, 2007 8:57 am

    Yeah…I don’t get it, either. Seems like the kids who lived in my neighborhood growing up. They lived across the street from each other, but they only communicated via walkie-talkie.

    I can’t understand why someone would want to know what I’m up to every day - seems kinda vain.