Twitter is Disturbingly Bad for Our Collective Consciousness

Apr 05

“Twittering stems from a lack of identity. It’s a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity.” – Oliver James in the Times Online

Consider the difference between these two messages.

Consider how each would make you feel if you didn’t know how to watch Hulu whilst outside of the United States. If you saw either message on Twitter, it is likely would have been written by someone you chose to follow. Connecting with other Twitter users lets their messages into the space of the follower: into our computers, into our mobile phones, but most importantly and most detrimentally, into our minds.

Consider being slowly inundated with messages over a period of years that take the second tone, rather than the first, because no matter who ones follows or avoids, the second tweet is indicative of a popular form of commentary on Twitter. It is used to gain attention, to be noted as edgy and smart, and it is so very bad for our collective health online. However, it barely dips its toe into a pool of appalling behaviour that we have come to accept as social networking and healthy online debate.

Additionally, we have created a world where one’s very existence is validated by a staccato-like life casting, but one where everything cast is created and tailored for other people. Nothing we do or say on Twitter is done for ourselves; it is done to impress, humiliate, berate, influence or entertain somebody else.

by on Flickr

We have allowed ourselves to become a society that values two things that generations before ours did not:

  1. Broadcasting the fact that any individual exists, as validated by the attention of others.
  2. The ability to deliver bile in the most succinct manner possible, whether passive aggressively or as direct viciousness.

None of the positive uses of Twitter could make up for either of these appalling values.

The positive uses of Twitter hardly need to be relayed here. The primary benefits of the service are the quick distribution of information, specifically for the purpose of viral marketing, and the productive discussion and banter that was meant to be Twitter’s main purpose. Neither of these functions, however, is important or powerful enough to override the horrifying values above.

The psychology behind needing validation and attention is one hazy. It is human nature to value positive attention, and for some people–people like me–even feedback not inherently negative can be taken as a harsh judgement. When I had a Twitter account, there were periods where little bound me from broadcasting what I was doing. Any situation vaguely negative or positive had to be shared, and not just shared with one person. I maintained two accounts for over eighteen months: One was public and had about 2,100 followers (many of which were undoubtedly automated marketing accounts). One was private and followed by about 30 of my friends. I promise that most of what I say here is not academic pontificating about the actions of other people. I lived this.

The mindset of people who must share the majority of their experiences has devolved to the extent that an event has no significance unless it is broadcast.

The Web is now crawling with philosophers who are terrified that the tree makes no sound if it falls and no one hears it.

If you couldn’t share it, could you still value it? by kozumel on Flickr.

In Andy Pemberton’s Times Online piece A load of Twitter, various psychologists and writers wax lyrically about Twitter being a means to closeness. They paint a picture far stranger (sometimes bordering on outright weird) of our need for constant communication and assurance than that which I may be tempted to pursue. The piece did, however, highlight some of the most incredible things about Twitter as a pacifier: “a giant baby monitor”, as the piece calls it, or at least, a ridiculous security blanket.

No one, however, including people I’d spoken to offline about this, better conveyed the worst thing about Twitter than clinical psychologist Oliver James in Pemberton’s article:

“Twittering stems from a lack of identity. It’s a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity.”

Who would you be if you had no way of telling everyone who you are?

It’s not as though I found out. That I maintain a blog alone negates the idea that I, personally, have removed myself from delivering my opinion when I feel like it, and I still have a (private) Facebook account. However, removing myself from Twitter relieved me of two very unhealthy habits:

  1. Thinking that my actions or whims and thoughts were important enough to constantly share.
  2. Thinking that the actions, whims and thoughts of other people were important enough to influence my life.

The freedom of not being able to share life’s minutiae is more satisfying than the ability to share ever was.

In addition, Twitter made me a poorer writer. Despite having spent years studying English and, in particular, composition, I am not sure what it is about shortened text–specifically that which must contain fewer than 141 characters–that invites people to be snide and abrasive. I assume that a lot of it is delivery. Imagine if I tried to convey the sentiments of this article in a tweet. No development of argument; no clarification of thought.

I could think and write very well in short bursts; my sentence structure probably remained fairly similar, but my ability to deliver the sort of coherent paragraph that I was once brilliant at, was severely lacking. Thought development and the art of making sentences complement, not stand alone, from each other is one of the defining characteristics of good writing. I had taught myself to think in 140 character bursts: short projectiles of thought that English 101 teachers would mark down for inconsistency and lack of flow.

I owed myself, and some excellent teachers, a lot more than that.
by on Flickr

But it is short, jabbing little sentences and baby paragraphs that allow words to sound even more vicious that perhaps they were intended to be. Add the infamous behind-the-keyboard bravery, and a world is born where the descent into negativity is entirely natural.

Here, I see you stop reading. People are awful online, aren’t they? This, however, is hardly the height of the problem.

It’s not productive to again cover the fact that people are nasty to each other on the Internet. Far more interesting and less-explored is the tendency people have to crave and fuel fights created by others and in which they should have no personal interest.

I shy away from using real people, but much of this rings hollow unless we can look at examples. Recently, I came across a post by technology blogger Loren Feldman. Feldman had received a series of offensive messages and and had blogged about them. He proceeded to keep blogging and tweeting about the sender of the messages in a style for which he’s quite well known.

His campaign against any individual can be largely written off as the actions of a person known for purveying heated damage campaigns. Every couple of weeks, Feldman apparently has a new target, as well as some staple nemeses. It is not the simple fact of Feldman, or any similar individual, says these things. It is the collective response from a crowd hungry for blood. It is the modern day equivalent of gathering to watch a stoning, a hanging.

Our behaviour when we cheer on the likes of Feldman is no different to the reactions of people in times past who congregated in public to watch the humiliation and harm of somebody else.

They all agree: You’re an idiot, but you’re worth 140 characters of their time.
by on Flickr

Nowadays, people you know show their support not by hurling stones or stoking a fire, but by retweeting nasty comments, adding their own two cents to a debate that does not involve them and otherwise supporting the attack on a stranger. Some of this is likely done in the subconscious vein of self-preservation: we’ve seen the campaigns launched against others, and if we stay on the crowd’s good side by agreeing, we know it’s less likely we’ll be up next. Feldman’s content management system grabs mentions of a post on Twitter and adds the tweets as a comment on the post. Including comments left on the site and Twitter mentions, Feldman’s videoed mockery of his latest target’s product received (as of today) 169 responses. The vast majority of them are in support of the video. This number doesn’t include the tweeted conversations to which a large crowd contributed regarding the offending individual.

A crowd of people enjoying and contributing to the mockery of a stranger. We haven’t moved on a damn inch.

That the original message Feldman received was unnecessary, and its sender might be a relatively unpleasant individual, is of no consequence. Neither is the original point of any similar campaign, such as that which took place recently regarding . What matters is that hundreds (in some cases, thousands) of people pick up a stone and throw it in order to take part in the action. Nowadays, most of this happens on Twitter. If it doesn’t happen on Twitter, Twitter fuels the discussion. It is a benign technology that is routinely used to perpetuate the worst instincts of humankind.

There are two possible outcomes from this sort of behaviour; the first is more prevalent, but the second is worth mentioning as well.

The overriding hypothesis of what the heartfelt support of other people’s battles entails for any one individual is that that person becomes unhappier, less likeable, more prone to nastiness and far more likely to live life with a less positive demeanour. No one means to let interaction online, least of all on Twitter, affect them like that; however, long-term exposure to anything will leave a mark. Total immersion is proven to work in a range of physical and psychological ways: it is a very effective way of learning anything from a language to a game or activity. If a person immerses themselves in the sniper-fire style battles that burn and flare within Twitter, they adopt the cantankerous, impolite attitude where the feelings of others mean less and everyone is fair game for attack.

This was true for me. If I’d followed an online fight too closely, or if I’d taken part, I would be less positive offline. None of us can afford to let more negativity into our lives than that which we can’t control. During 2009, I especially learned the value of seeking the positive and the progressive. Why invite unpleasantness in when it often finds its way in regardless? Like anything you ingest, you carry the information you read, and its tone, with you wherever you go.

Venting anger or snark on Twitter didn’t improve my mood either. It just created a semi-permanent record of the emotion: the exact opposite of what was needed.

Listening too hard to the opinions of others has also resulted in people more definitively assigning other people worth. A person’s social media presence (mainly dictated by activity on Twitter) has become synonymous with how much they matter. At the recent in Leeds, attendees’ badges displayed their Twitter handles and some statistics about their activity therein. A harmless meme and an efficient way to exchange Twitter names, but one which subconsciously states: If you do not tweet, who are you to us? There are now, more so than ever, people who “don’t matter”.

On the other hand, perhaps living a fight vicariously through a Loren Feldman is good for us? Could a case be made that letting someone else get dirty for the sake of public belittlement ensures that people at large don’t do it themselves? If we can focus on a common enemy and let a vocal few deliver the blows, perhaps our aggression and discontent can escape passively. Are we less likely to kick off at someone in our real lives if we’ve released some angst by retweeting an unnecessary piece of snark at somebody we don’t know? I personally don’t believe this, but it is the counter-argument to that which I’ve made, and is worth mentioning.

I understand the counterpoints. The overwhelming majority of my friends use Twitter, and they will say to me:

“I get a lot of benefit from it. I share links to my writing and to other things I’ve enjoyed. Twitter introduced me to business opportunities and bettered my reputation. You just couldn’t handle yourself properly on there, or control your emotional reactions to what you read.”

Even if you think you can operate something like Twitter entirely responsibly, please give these points a second thought. Have you ever been left upset by a negative experience had via Twitter that you would never have had if Twitter were not part of your life? Do you ever find yourself gripped by the need to tweet experiences or thoughts, and would you be frustrated if you weren’t able to or didn’t share them? Have you ever laughingly retweeted or replied to a little snippet of bile, or linked to a cruel post? Are you sure your relationship with Twitter is that much different to mine?

I expect my positive experience with deleting Twitter is a sensation common to many people who’ve quit something that was bad for them. In the past two months, I’ve narrowed the positive change down to the points explained above: the ability to enjoy life without proving my, or its, existence, or constructing an ideal real-time version of who I am for other people, and the ability to be ignorant of the primitive promotion of public brawling.

I used to view Twitter as quite central to how I lived, but it is also freeing to see how little time needs to pass before something that was actually a very unhealthy habit is gone entirely.

by on Flickr.

[UPDATE] Whilst I recognise the inherent irony of including comments from another social network here, some of my friends had really good points , and their points contribute to those left in comments here really well. Profile is private unless we’re connected on Facebook. If I get their permission, I’ll post the thread as an image here.

[UPDATE II] They agreed to let me share their Facebook comments :)

32 Responses to “Twitter is Disturbingly Bad for Our Collective Consciousness”

  1. Rebecca Scott says:

    What a truly thought provoking post!!

  2. Jane says:

    Thank you, Beccy :) Hope all’s well down in Teddington!

  3. MikeTek says:

    “Venting anger or snark on Twitter didn’t improve my mood either. It just created a semi-permanent record of the emotion: the exact opposite of what was needed.”

    You hit it spot on there. Twitter makes it easier to be off-the-cuff, to let something fly before we’ve really considered it.

    The stonings aren’t particular to Twitter. This is the unfortunate tribal behavior of humans. The principles of the individual are lost in the flood. The desire to belong is evolutionary, and while some of us are even-keeled enough to escape our egos and resist the pull of the crowd there will always be those who are not.

    You can operate decently in any social arena, by your own standards. The technology and form are no more to blame than the sonnet is for crappy love poetry or autotune is for Ke$ha. Though I agree it can enable the worst in us if we use it mindlessly, and we may end up regretting ourselves.

    Participation has no inherent value, positive or negative. Crowds will always be capable of both great generosity and terrifying stupidity.

  4. Matt says:

    I agree with the sentiment behind the post Jane, but the point where I keep getting unstuck with it is:I don’t see this as a Twitter thing. It’s surely bigger than that.
    If it’s not Twitter, it’s more traditional forms of blogging. If it’s not blogging, it’s forums. If it’s not forums, it’s something else enabling this… I dunno, this collective degradation of self. And I know that’s not the point of the post, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

    On another note: wow… I think your writing chops are back, better than ever ;)

  5. Jane says:

    Love it, Mike and Matt: your commentary is always fantastic. My focus on Twitter is solely because it is the vehicle du jour for the behaviour, i.e. “It is a benign technology that is routinely used to perpetuate the worst instincts of humankind.”

    My participation made me an unhappier person, which is why I quit. I also noticed that when the terrible behaviour and commentary was confined to forums or other media, it didn’t escape so freely. Twitter is so much more public, e.g. you may not all be members of, but “everyone” is a member of Twitter. Not following someone doesn’t mean that retweets and replies with periods before the message don’t get through. Tweets are also so often reproduced: it is harder to escape from any one message, which is why I see it as worse than older outlets.

    But yeah, totally: It’s not the technology that is to blame, many people just don’t appear to be trustworthy enough to use it!

    (And cheers for the writing shout-out: it’s taken a couple of months to get it back ;) )

  6. Michelle Robbins says:

    Terrific article Jane. I would say however, that the experience of twitter within the SEO/SEM community, is quite different than, for example, my husband’s experience of twitter within his group of colleagues and friends. He’s quite bemused, and often horrified when I recount to him “what happened on twitter today” (no lie, that’s often a topic at dinner). He thinks it’s both fascinating and disturbing to see my tweet stream, and when I compare it to his, I understand why. Of course, he has the same response when I recount tales of events at professional search conferences (vs. the conferences and trade shows he attends).

    I’m certainly not saying this kind of behavior is limited to the SEO/SEM community, but I can say that non-internet marketing people that I know that use Twitter, have a vastly different experience of it. And most others ignore it altogether, much preferring to interact with friends and colleagues on Facebook and LinkedIn. So perhaps it really is just down to human nature. And how any individual (or group as it were) chooses to use a given tool.

  7. Jane says:

    Hey Michelle, thank you for the great comment! It’s certainly interesting how some communities and industries have ended up using Twitter in a relatively disturbing way (ours being one of them), whilst others can maintain interaction on the site that better mirrors how we use LinkedIn or Facebook. However, my amateur psychology isn’t up to figuring out why (“we have some horrible people in online marketing” is as good as I can come up with :/)!

  8. Kalena says:

    There’s food for thought here Jane. Thank you.

  9. Hannah says:

    Hey Jane,

    “Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity.”


    “The mindset of people who must share the majority of their experiences has devolved to the extent that an event has no significance unless it is broadcast.”

    Are both terrifyingly ugly thoughts aren’t they? Sadly I do think that they’re true.

    I always come back to what my Mum says about my ‘online’ life – she’s mystified – “But why would you want to do that, darling?” – is asked a *lot*.

    It’s hard to answer her ;)

    Thanks for a really thought provoking post.

  10. Jane says:

    Kalena and Hannah,

    Thanks girls. That was indeed what scared me Hannah: I was becoming one of those people who was careful what I tweeted in order to establish a version of myself that I liked online, but one that shared anything in order to heighten its relevancy.

    My mother says similar things. What is the point of saying or doing that? If everyone asked themselves that before they posted to Twitter, the site would be a lot quieter because there’s little point in what the majority of people do on there that would pass their own honest scrutiny.

    Also, “Now it’s a meme to tease him”:

    We’ve made mockery into a meme. What a charming campaign.

  11. Johan A Kruger says:

    Great post thank you, truly thought provoking.

    I find myself using twitter in a completely different way.

    My twitter usage is more used as research and sharing insights into business and the social media space with others with a similar interest.

    You post mostly seem to focus on people who twitter the mundane. What are your thoughts of using it as a research and thought delivery platform?

  12. Jane says:

    Hi Johan,

    Cheers for the comment!

    Like so many technologies, there is definitely nothing wrong with the service itself, and people like you use it for the best possible purpose: that which it was undoubtedly mean for… and it can be excellent for those things.

    The thing I found it most enjoyable for was following local London accounts. These accounts tweeted everything from upcoming events to news: they were entertaining and I miss them. I may create a new account at some point just to follow accounts like that.

    My struggle with Twitter was due to not being able to avoid the mundane and the nasty. There is a lot of it about in the SEO community, unfortunately. When you come across groups who use it well, Twitter is outstanding. It was an unfortunate personal experience that my corner of this industry is populated by a few often-retweeted, influential people, who are also mundane and nasty :\

  13. Ciaran says:

    Interesting post, it really made me want to tweet.

    To be vaguely serious, I think you raise some very valid points (as you know) and agree that many of the tools we’re now surrounded with often do little more than allow small people (which we all are) to prove how big they are by heaping aggression on to others.

    And I do often think “why the hell should anyone care what I think about this”, or, indeed, that, or the other. And yet, and yet, I do keep coming back to it.

    To be honest, I think what the web is really crawling with is philosophers who are worried that if they’re in a forest, and a falling tree kills them, no one will care.

  14. Jane says:

    Love that it made you want to tweet ;)

    I’m not against the activity per se; I’m very much against the overwhelming negative uses burning away within.

    As usual, insightful comment. And totally appropriate from the person who got me into Twitter in the first place. (Read: it’s all your fault.) ;)

  15. says:

    Hi Jane,

    I think that a number of the points you make are valid and challenge my very justifications for using Twitter.

    I definitely try to stay away from the flame wars going back and forth that tend to be fanned by Twitter from time to time (please excuse the easy pun there)… but I don’t really see Twitter as the root of the evil.

    A number of other people here have alluded to the point that this behaviour is indicative of a larger problem manifested throughout the internet and I tend to think that this is a better explanation for the problem than to blame Twitter any more so than other mediums of expression on the web.

    To play devil’s advocate here (and that is all I am doing as I blog regularly and use Twitter, Facebook, etc.): is “microblogging” or Twitter really any different than any other mediums of social media? The quote suggesting that “no one would use Twitter if they had any sense of identity” seems to hold for all these mediums. Is using Twitter any different than writing a blog? Or changing your status on Facebook? Or posting a profile to Linkedin?

    At the end of the day, these are all ways in which we reach out, look for approval, or even just voice our opinions. Perhaps it is voyeuristic (a bit like leaving your diary unlocked in an obvious place) but it’s sort of fun and can be a good way to blow off steam– without insulting others I might add!

    I know there are a lot of bad seeds out there, but for me, Twitter is the best way for me to find articles, blog posts and random facts that I would never hear about otherwise (you can thank Ciaran for me finding this post in the first place ;) ). This doesn’t mean I couldn’t live without knowing what Joe Blogs thinks about the newest gadget, but it gives me the freedom to pick and choose what I read and saves me the effort of scouring hundreds of blogs and news sites all day.

    Whilst Twitter is a big time waster and at times gets ugly, it is a great way to share and be shared with… and perhaps most importantly, it helps the overly verbose (read: ME) from rambling on too much.

    Just my two cents… thank you for sharing yours! :)

  16. chris hall says:

    Great article.

    I agree with most of what you say and there is irony in the fact that without twitter I wouldn’t have found your blog.

    I’ve written a post on my blog which touches on some of the things you refer to entitled ‘Life is not played out in 140 characters’. My point is that social tools like twitter can bring great benefit to users/business in getting them to communicate and find each other. But the reality is that the only way these things will really show success is if they are the beginning of the journey.

    If we use it as a mechanism to meet new people (for real) and actually engage and collaborate with them then it will be change for the better. If we just sit and write 140 character messages on our phones or laptops then it will be a crying shame.

    Consider me a new subscriber to your blog posts

  17. Jane says:

    I was wary of the hypocrisy of having a go at Twitter (although I do state that it’s a benign medium that gets abused), but where I see Twitter as part of the problem is both in the shortened nature of the messages (being or sounding meaner is easier when its delivered quickly) and the egotism of life-casting.

    Some people do life-cast on Facebook and on their blogs… I also used to be one of them (Facebook). I can’t say I have ever seen Facebook descend into the flame wars you get on Twitter. If you go across the web to forums and comment-section fights, they don’t also have the “this is also what I’m having for lunch” egotism thrown in there.

    Together, those two things have made for a lethal combination. I actually like it, Sam, that you can leave long comments here! You get your point across, whereas if it were a tweet, you’d have no time to explain yourself. Misunderstanding so often leads to fighting, hence why the brevity of Twitter is, in my opinion, part of the problem…

    Thought not aimed at anyone who’s commented here: Along the misunderstanding line, it is a gross misunderstanding to say that nastiness is “just part of social media”. No, that’s someone excusing themselves for being nasty. That difference is very important.

    Chris, awesome! Expect them regularly, once every month or so :p (Seriously, I don’t write often!)

  18. Sigmund says:

    I’m with Michelle’s husband. Between LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. – I’m on a lot of social media. And I very rarely see flames and cursing and battles.

    First a quick note. I have been in the software business for many, many years and can attest to the fact that flaming predates the Internet. People used to do it on bulletin boards that you had to dial in to directly. So this is nothing new.

    What is new(er) is the ability to broadcast to the world how many disgusting, disappointing, and damaging things we’ve found lately. Today’s Internet gives you access to an astounding range of people and with that I think you can find whatever you look for.

    I look for positive experiences and ways to help me in work and my personal life. So my Facebook friends (less than 100) are a combination of personal friends and close business contacts. From this I get updates about what my friends are doing and interesting and fun news about companies and business ideas. The Twitter feeds I follow (about 120) include friends and business people I respect. From this I get links to both interesting and helpful articles and blogs (incl. this one). Many of these help me with my current job (and help me find my next one). I go on YouTube and watch interesting videos – but they range from first looks at new computer equipment to Persian kittens.

    If someone I follow on Twitter starts ranting or being inappropriate, in less than 15 seconds they’re off my list. If someone on Facebook starts posting weird pictures or making inappropriate comments, I un-friend them.

    We can look for the bad (and on the Internet, you’ll find it) and gnash our teeth about the sorry state of humans in the world, or we can easily adjust our Internet experience to remove them from our world. If you use the bad you found as a reason to get out of social media – then I have to ask why you have a television (OK, I’m assuming you do). You can get channels that show some pretty disgusting stuff so why do you continue to watch TV? If you say it’s because you only watch decent shows, why can’t you do that with social media?

  19. Louis Venter says:

    Great post Jane, i do think though that its largely our industry or rather the tech industry as a whole. There are a lot of people that probably need to live a bit more in the real world where it isnt ok to act like a complete tool or act like the schoolyard bully.

    Maybe thats part of it? They got that at school and are now venting at anyone that will listen? I’m not sure Twitter is to blame though, its everywhere online, i just wish they would realise that just because youre behind a computer dosent give you the right to forget basic manners and treat people like human beings.

    Then again Twitter makes it fairly easy to unfollow idiots like that and surround yourself with positive people who’s opinions you respect, much like facebook?

  20. Jane says:

    Great points everyone. I think where there’s a little bit of misunderstanding about my point is that I see Twitter as worse than other outlets because of the combination of egotism and nastiness.

    1) “I went to a club and saw Jay Z!” (subtext: this NEEDS to be shared in order to make me look cool.)

    2) “RT @1938media [person of the week] is a douchebag [link].” (subtext: this NEEDS to be shared so that I look cool, and because I enjoy the aggression.)

    Rarely do you see these two things come together, besides on Twitter.

    It also made no difference who I unfollowed. People I liked replied to the egotists and negative people’s messages, often with a full stop before the message in order to ensure more people saw the reply.

    People I liked retweeted unpleasant things as well. *I* would be tempted to do the same. For example, if someone was having a go at an individual–making fun of them, rather than engaging in a real critique. I’d see people I liked getting involved because, on the surface, some tweets were amusing.

    But it’s not amusing. It’s unpleasant and childish.

    None of us is immune to those temptations (pretending we are would be a bit self righteous). As such, it was difficult to justify unfollowing everyone who ever engaged in such things.

    The combination is what turned me off Twitter so strongly.

  21. says:

    Thanks Jane for the clarification… I totally agree with you on the brevity thing. I know I tend to be too wordy from time to time and Twitter does force me to practice being more concise but given how poorly interpreted conversations via email or text in general can be this can definitely be an even bigger problem when people try to keep it brief!

    Finally, with regards to the “this is just part of social media” comment I totally agree that this is a poor excuse. I think flaming is an overly popular and prevalent part of the web community (and this dates well back to forums and message boards of yesterdyear) and is both weak-sauce and not limited to social media.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and thoughtful responses!

  22. davros says:

    whereas blogging is just twitter for people with verbal diarrhea

  23. Matt says:

    I think you’d have found the whole thing a lot less nasty if you’d just unfollowed people like Loren Feldmen. It’s very easy to cut out noise on Twitter, if you’re following someone and they’re being a dick, unfollow them. Job done.

    I absolutely disagree that “Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity”. It’s there for sharing info and a bit of banter with like-minded people with similar interests. If you’re using it in some conceited way to show off how cool you are and prove that you exist, you have failed.

  24. Jane says:

    Hey Matt,

    Cheers for the comment! Where I found it tough to escape the combination of egotism and negativity was after I’d unfollowed the Feldmans I came across (actually never did follow him, but saw retweets, in this case those that ended up on Facebook). No matter who I unfollowed, snippets of silly infighting still got through. In that light, I actually found it really hard to cut out the noise.

    If I have an account in future though, I’ll stick to following the accounts I miss (information about events in London, silly accounts like @imlondonbridge, very close friends, etc).

    Polarising statement about identity, indeed. I admit that a lot of the points in that Times Online article went further than I would have (as I said in the post). I agree that lack of identity is not particularly present in Twittered conversations where you’re chatting about a common interest, but when somebody needs to break from an offline situation in order to broadcast its existence on Twitter, then I very much see where James is coming from.

    Thanks again for the comment; you highlight what Twitter was always meant to be about :)


  25. Jane says:

    Hey Matt,

    I just had your tweet pointed out to me:

    “By sending you this tweet, I am confirming my weak as piss sense of identity. WHO AM I?

    I’m sorry my post angered you :( (at least, I get angry vibes from what you’ve said on Twitter!) Honestly, it’s tweets that come across as angry and aggressive like that that sort of turned me off Twitter in the first place :/

    Peace man.


  26. Marc Bitanga says:

    Hi Jane,

    Very insightful post. Definitely a different take compared to the overwhelming hype over Twitter.

    As some of the others may have alluded to, a person’s experience with Twitter depends on who they follow and how they manage it.

    Can Twitter be a gong show? Absolutely. There are days when I’m tempted to unfollow folks who can get pretty silly. But there are others who I unfollow b/c their comments are just down right offensive or don’t add to the collective conversation.

    Can you get value out of using Twitter? Definitely. There are some people who through other channels I would have never been able to reach or communicate with. But with Twitter, it made it possible for me ask questions and interact, as well as meet in person!

    Just 2 cents from a guy on Twitter :)

  27. Matt says:

    Hehe, should have seen that coming… I gues that specific quote did frustrate me a bit as it makes a sweeping and outright wrong statement. I know you were just referencing it but I got the feeling from your article that you agreed, and I was disagreeing in the snarky way I sometimes do. It happens when you write contentious posts like this – I wrote a much less well researched critique of Twitter a couple of years ago, called “21 Reasons Twitter Is Bullshit”, before I really got why and how people used the service, and recieved some very similar responses at the time. It was also far and away the most viewed page on the site, so it wasn’t all bad!

  28. Yura says:

    And I was thinking there was something wrong with me, because I didn’t want announce every my breakfast to the world.

    Thanks for the post, Jane :)

  29. asdf says:

    You could just as well replace every instance of “twitter” with “talking” in this article. Twitter is just a communication medium.

    “Nothing we do or say on Twitter is done for ourselves; it is done to impress, humiliate, berate, influence or entertain somebody else.” – How is this different from talking to a person?

    You’re blaming a communication medium for the perceived vices of human communication in general.

    Twitter is just another way for humans to express themselves.

  30. Vic says:

    Damn, wrote like three paragraphs before I realised “ASDF” up there covered it pretty well. I still think that it’s a insightful article into how attributing fictional characteristics to relative medium’s can affect your personal interactions with them, though.

  31. Joseph McCullough says:

    While I know you don’t garner self-validation from the number of comments you receive, it does make me slightly upset that such a meaningful, thought-provoking piece of literature receives 1/8th the attention of your average round-up article.