I'll start with Facebook-- they turned it into Twitter. Now when you log in you see everyone's hundreds of status updates. It's less-easy to control settings for, you have fewer options than with the "old" Facebook, and, in my view, they ruined the product. I'll write a post another day on the economic reasoning of why they can ruin a product and still get a reported 1 million new users a day.
I have been using TweetDeck to organize my Twitter feeds, and have been trying to "tweet" like most Twitter users do.
Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and blogs allow people to do four things:
1. Transmit information about themselves.
2. Consume information about others.
3. Feel "connected."
4. Waste time.
One purpose of Twitter is to reinforce a feeling of self-importance. You tell people what you ate for breakfast, or where you're going, or what you're reading. Because everyone considers him/herself important, therefore whatever he/she does must be important. So you tell the world what you're doing because why wouldn't they want to know?
With Twitter, you get an audience of "followers." In about a week's time I have gotten 25. I don't know who most of them are, probably market researchers or spammers. But now I feel obligated to inform the masses what I'm doing. And I know that people are listening, and that makes me feel important.
I'm pretty sure there is a large volume of Scripture about how we should not aim to feel more self-important outside of our identity in Christ. So, I'm becoming convinced that Twitter may be at odds with that. But so would be blogging. Except with blogging, you can work out more of your thoughts and opinions like a journal, rather than only 140 characters like Twitter (not useful for complete thoughts). So, why don't I journal rather than blog? Probably to transmit information about myself and feel self-important?
Twitter definitely has a stalkerish aspect. It's like Facebook except much easier to gain access to the (very limited) information. Twitter feeds are, by default, public. Users get an email that you're following them, but they may have gotten used to all the random people (spammers? market researchers?) following them and not think anything of it. So, it's less personal then getting a "Friend" invitation on Facebook where you can check the person's background.
I follow Coach Calipari and he Tweets often. He has thousands of fans following him and hanging on every word (these get reposted on message boards). Same thing with Ashton Kutcher. You can respond to their Tweets and sometimes they will write back, sometimes so everyone can see it.
I also follow John Boehner. He updates about pending legislation and political rangling. I find that information interesting, the links he posts often go to articles or bills that are worth reading.
Is that a good thing? Is it truly useful? (there's also the whole issue of whether or not it's really John McCain posting but rather a staffer or a fake or someone else).
I definitely feel more connected to Coach Cal and what he's doing for Kentucky basketball. I feel more connected to the journalists that I read, and know more about the stories they're developing, how they spend their free time, what music they listen to... I also know what members of my family are doing.
Is it useful to be connected in such an esoteric way? I'm connected to Nick Kristof in an electronic stalkerish sort of way. But he doesn't know me, doesn't care about me. I know what he's eating or thinking but does that truly make me connected?
Reading Tweets, even well-organized ones via TweetDeck, is time consuming. It has crowded out my blog reading time. The blogs I read are longer, more technical, and have more information than a Twitter feed. So, I feel like my time is wasted by reading the 140 character Tweets.
And I wrote this post, and that obviously took some time... (if you followed my Twitter feed, you'd know why I had the time...yikes).