Study: Twitter will swallow every shred of your humanity

In a trend that is now as tiresome as Twitter itself, anti-Twitter article #4,372 since last year comes this time by way of Gawker, who gleefully reports the findings of a study that claims the wildly popular social networking website will eventually turn its users into soulless automatons.

Is Twitter amoral? Scientists have probed the issue, but the answer is obvious: Of course it is. It’s a blank slate, by design — empty of values except for the cultish worship of the now.

The study posits a reasonable but mostly unlikely theory that human brains will become so reliant on receiving information in short, immediate bursts that eventually they won’t be able to process emotions in a healthy manner.  While near the end of the article the writer does clarify that the researchers heading the study don’t specifically hold Twitter responsible for this, regardless he uses it to remind us yet again that Twitter is the refuge of the shallow and the self-absorbed, something Gawker has been doing with predictable frequency lately.  An article in USA Today the very next day suggests that Twitter can be damaging to relationships, citing the rumor that Jennifer Aniston dumped John Mayer over his excessive Tweeting as evidence of this.  Sure, the rumor has already been discounted, but the writer uses it as an example anyway because hey, it totally could happen!  Thinly disguising speculation as fact is irresponsible journalism on a par with The Weekly World News, but never mind.

Alarmist reports on how innovations in electronics and the media are harbingers of the end of polite society are nothing new to my generation.  I’ve been hearing since I was a kid how video games, Saturday morning cartoons, sugary breakfast cereals and easy access to cable porn are surely going to turn young brains to mush, and how because we were never made to work on farms or chop wood to keep our family warm we were going to grow up to be lazy and unappreciative of what we have.  In the era of the internet, however, that spooky, spooky internet that, even nearly twenty years after its debut lots of people stubbornly claim they don’t understand, the reports are getting more alarmist, more judgmental and more snide.  MySpace is going to turn teenagers into illiterate sex fiends.  Facebook is going to force people to hole up in their houses away from fresh air and sunlight until they resemble naked mole rats, as they eagerly await to receive the next addition to their Green Patch or the results for a ‘What Kind of Sandal Are You?’ quiz.  And, of course, Twitter users are so far up their own asses that if someone were to keel over of a heart attack in front of them, they’d be too busy Tweeting about it to stop and help.

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s something incongruous about using the internet as a platform to proclaim that the internet is evil and everyone on it is hopelessly maladjusted, even moreso using a blog to pass judgment on how self-involved other people are.  MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and yes, even the internet itself are all opt-in services, it seems that the best course of action if they bother you so much is to just disengage yourself from them, rather than constantly bitching about their negative impact on society.  Keep in mind that, with the way it’s set up in general, the only way you can discover the more annoying aspects of Facebook is if you’re a  member.  The only way you can mock someone’s pointless Tweets about what they ate on a given day or the color and consistency of their bowel movements is by seeking them out.  This is akin to going to a restaurant and ordering something you know will make you sick, then returning there every day and ordering the same thing, while bitching about the restaurant itself.  If the very existence of Twitter offends you, then it’s up to you to stay away from it.

Let’s be honest, most bashing of social networking sites, particularly that of Twitter, isn’t borne of a fear that by the next generation humans won’t be able to have a conversation that consists of more than 140 characters, it’s based in our inherent need to feel above other people.  The average Twitter user, Yr. Correspondent included, isn’t going to claim that their most profound thoughts are captured there, but anti-Twitterites seem convinced that “Waiting for a bus, had pizza for lunch” is as deep as anyone there is capable of getting, and love using that as proof positive that Twitter users are dull and probably a little stupid.  Anti-Twitterites just love mentioning how they haven’t given in and joined the sheep, which again suggests a sort of hypocrisy, that anyone should care more why you don’t use Twitter than why someone else does.  It’s a losing battle to try explaining to anyone why Twitter is simply an amusing, diverting way to waste some time and nothing more, but so is trying to convince people that Twitter members are sad, deluded people shouting meaningless babble into an uncaring void.  A “live and let live” approach would probably be best, but of course, this is the internet, where everybody has something to say.

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2 Responses to “Study: Twitter will swallow every shred of your humanity”

  1. What really gets me about articles like this is that they don’t seem to keep in mind that people use different services for different things. Twitter is a great time suck, but sometimes I do occasionally have thoughts that cannot adequately be expressed in 140 characters. That’s why I have email, a blog, or instant messenger. Using one service does not preclude me from using others.

  2. Jennifer K. Says:

    Concerning social media sites – what you make out of them is what you get. Twitter has become a fountain of information for me for business. Sure there’s a lot of junk out there. There’s a lot of junk everywhere, but if twitter were just people talking about what they ate for dinner, thousands of corporations wouldn’t be using it for everything from press releases to customer service.

    I’m on facebook mostly for the apps :P

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