The lovely peril of Twitter seduction

In a world already driven mad by byte-size information overload, do we need more hyper-distraction?Sure, why not?

By Andrew Leonard
Published July 30, 2009 1:01AM (UTC)
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I've been tweeting and twittering for less than 24 hours, but it is already clear to me that life as I knew it is pretty much over. What surprises me is how energized and content I feel about that.

Despite being aware of Twitter almost from its outset, I resisted signing up. As a feature-writer-turned-blogger who is often frustrated by the inherent limits of writing something meaningful in a format measured by a few hours or a few minutes and a few paragraphs, the prospect of Twitter haiku 140-character microblogging lacked inherent appeal. I also have a hard enough time as it is managing the multiple infostreams I already feed off of -- a blogreader stuffed to the gills, constant e-mail and instant messaging overload, the sheer immensity of the Internet's aggregation of resources. When one feels guilty for not reading enough books, the Twitterverse is troubling. While following the various intramural journalistic debates over the merits of Twitter, I found myself nodding my head at arguments proffered by the "anti" side. Somewhere, a line had to be drawn, right?

The Twitter musings of Scott Rosenberg, who has thought as deeply about the implications and possibilities of new media as anyone alive, (disclaimer: he's also my close friend), chipped away at my Twitter-phobia, as did the simple imperative, in these confused and challenging times for the profession of journalism, of becoming comfortable with all forms of information transmission. So I took the plunge.

On a sheer instrumental level, I have already seen some obvious advantages. Earlier this morning, when attempting to figure out what I thought of the Microsoft-Yahoo search engine deal, various Twitterers were tweeting relevant links far more quickly than my blogreader was delivering them. On a simple utilitarian level, Twitter is improving my work efficiency -- (or at least it would be, if I wasn't spending so much time thinking about Twitter instead of health care or energy policy or high frequency trading.)

I was prepared for that aspect of Twitter, so no surprise there. What has jolted me is the sheer energy associated with all things Twitter. The rapidity with which "followers" sign on to your feed; the urgency of real-time communication; the sense that when people have something to share, they are going first to Twitter, and everything else radiates from there. At five thirty this morning, my Twitter feed was hopping with China-related tweets from halfway around the globe that crackled in their sheer immediacy.

I signed on because I felt a responsibility to. I never expected it to be so much fun.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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