Dan Lyons has a piece in this week’s Newsweek entitled Don’t Tweet On Me: Twitter shows that stupid stuff sells, and it’s really spot on. Last week reports came out about the research conducted by psychologist Tracy Packiam Alloway, PhD. Basically her findings were that Twitter diminished certain aspects of a user’s intelligence, in what she calls “working memory.”
So the research supports the conclusions, but Lyons’ point is driven mostly by observation. He’s totally right when he writes:
It’s morbidly fascinating, kind of like the forbidden thrill you get watching Maury Povich’s show or professional wrestling. You know it’s awful. You know you shouldn’t enjoy it, yet you can’t look away. That, I’m afraid to say, is why I’ve come to believe that, of all the hellish things that have been spawned in the fever swamp that is the Internet, Twitter may turn out to be the most successful of them all-not in spite of its stupidity, but because of it.
I tried Twitter for a couple of months earlier this year and reached the same conclusion. Twitter may be useful if you’re selling something, but as a means of self expression it is decidedly brain-damaged. There is some evidence that young people don’t use Twitter to anywhere near the degree of middle aged people. What makes that interesting is that Twitter is not so much about self expression as it is a broadcast medium. Lyons says that Twitter is stupider than TV, and he may be right.
If you haven’t tried Twitter yet, I say, go ahead. But if you find it to be an inane time-sink with little or no redeeming value, don’t be surprised.
If you want self expression there are a variety of other ways: making a zine, writing a blog, composing a song, writing a poem, taking a photo, shooting a video. But as has been clearly shown, putting 140-character tweets together takes a meager amount of thought and some manage to do it without any thought at all.