Saturday, 30 January 2010

A 'Grrr' on things short and tweet

Hullo ma wee blog,

As usual, I don't get it. {nothing unusual about that, the lovely G would say!} It could actually be said that 'thankfully' I don't get it, since what I don't get is 'Twitter'. I'm not a member so again thankfully I don't receive these irritating 140 character or less messages from anyone. It doesn't mean that I am immune though as often Twitter is linked to blogs and therefore I have experienced some of the deep and meaningful messages that 'Tweeters' are wont to share and with nephews and neices there is always twitter, tweeting and facebooking going on. I'm impressed by the sheer lack of any kind of meaningful content in most instances.

Most of it seems to be absolute babble: what they are sitting down to eat, how good the coffee is, that they've just bought a pair of shoes/aftershave/hairdo, Gillians just been tweeted by James and other absolute banalities. I have been put off by the amount of absolute tripe that's involved. Why is it so important to immediately read and respond to the bilge that comes through while at work, the dinner table or even the cinema for Gods sake?...... {Strangely the guy next to me in the gents at the last concert I went to was tweeting skillfully one handed while busily engaged in other things} What is the point of 140 characters or less? Is there anything meaningful that can be communicated within those parameters?

Well, yes, of course there is and I imagine that hopefully many people do just that. I don't have any evidence of it though. 99% of what I have seen is just drivel. The kind of stuff that, if it was being sent to me at the rate that many of the exponents seem to punt it out, would have me hunting them down taking their whatever off them and jumping up and down on it in front of them while I screamed " If you don't have anything important or interesting to say then leave me alone!" at them.

Since I wont ever sign up to Tweet myself its never going to happen.

I love communication. I love language. Often, regardless of how banal, mundane or out of my sphere of experience the content, I am swept up by the pace, style, tone of language used - the way a thought is constructed, an argument is posited, a claim is staked - and I am enjoyably immersed in someones thoughts, feelings and cares as they share their perspective, their intelligence or their involvement. I am in awe of people who communicate well, craftsmen who delight in language and can use it playfully or creatively to suit the mood, the message and the audience perfectly. But language {and understanding} is so precious that it shouldn't be abused by shoe horning into something that just doesn't fit. It should be delivered in its own time, enjoyed for the sheer pleasure of communicating and seeing understanding or thoughtful reaction in return shouldn't it?

I do believe that communication is good. But is it any communication, or is it only 'good' communication. Ach, I don't know - I wouldn't know what is 'good' communication is except that it surely has to be satisfyingly meaningful and clear for the parties involved perhaps. Can it be done consistently in a tweet? { or am I really saying that I couldn't do it in a tweet?} All this tweeting about nothing is just an interruption, an irritation, a statement that you think what you have to say is more important than what I am doing at the moment. {even if I am reading a blog and you are winking away in the corner of my eye, determined to distract me from my item of choice} Are inane tweets a sign of sad old 'Billy no mates' just punting stuff into the ether as a way of saying "I'm here" and two minutes later, " I'm still here so no use ignoring me cos I won't go away!"?

Loving language, even if I've not mastered it fully myself, I regret when someone can't express themselves. Its got to be as frustrating for them as it is for me sometimes, but sometimes people don't even see that they can't express themselves effectively. They cant debate an issue or argue a case, make a point, or state an opinion because they don't have the skill of language and the effective experience of practice and these are things which take time to learn and time to deliver. It can't be done in 140 characters. I'm worried we are in danger of neglecting the skills to acquire understanding and love of language. What next - Shakespeare in tweet form?

Today we are being fed information in ever shrinking chunks. Everything reduced to a sound bite, an easily digestible chunk, just as easily incorrect or misinterpreted and easily accepted as gospel as it covers only the bare bones of content and context. Much is simplified to the lowest common denominator {and then the presentation can be complicated by 'blabber' boards across the bottom of TV screens for instance}. It really scares me that in the future many parts of society wont be able to form an opinion on anything, to challenge anything effectively. {at least in 140 characters or more} This is another facet of what Twitter represents for me and why I see it as potentially debasing what language and communication is there to do.

I know, I'm getting older, the world is changing, life is faster and I should just accept that I can't keep up. If the kids can handle it then surely it must be ok. Well of course there is the potential for it to be either hugely damaging or hugely beneficial.

So is Twitter all bad?

Well not really. Perversely there are also real benefits to instantly connected limited scale messaging.

During the 2008 Mumbai attacks eyewitnesses sent an estimated 80 tweets every 5 seconds. Twitter users on the ground helped compile a list of the dead and injured. In addition, users sent out vital information such as emergency phone numbers and the location of hospitals needing blood donations. CNN called this "the day that social media appeared to come of age" since many different groups made significant use of Twitter to gather news and coordinate responses. Of course me being me thought that most of them would have been better putting their phones and blackberries away and actually HELPING the injured not bloomin' tweeting!

The Australian Country Fire Authority used Twitter to send out regular alerts and updates regarding the February 2009 Victorian bushfires. During this time the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, also used his Twitter account to send out information on the fires, how to donate money and blood, and where to seek emergency help.

Also in April 2009, some American public health departments used Twitter to provide updates on H1N1 cases.

The Distance College of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, use Twitter with native Chinese students as a tool to train communicative and cultural competence. Students have to post a certain number of English tweets and react to the tweets of their fellow students. Twitter was viewed as a supplement to practice in authentic environment different aspects of the target language as it was taught in the classroom.

The University of Vienna, Austria, used Twitter as an evaluation platform for student ratings. Every student had to send a tweet after each course unit with feedback to the teacher. Twitter turned out to be "a useful tool for evaluating a course formatively. Because of Twitter's simple use and the electronic handling of data, the administrative effort remains small."

At the University of Texas at Dallas, Twitter has been incorporated into the actual classroom setting of History courses with big groups of students. This innovative approach gives more students the opportunity to express their views in class discussions. Another advantage of this approach is that the limit of characters forces them to get to the central point.

According to, Twitter is to be put on the new primary school curriculum. Children should be able to "organise and adjust" speaking and writing skills depending on the technology being used, including using "emails, messaging, wikis and twitters". During the primary years, children should also be taught to speak, write and broadcast using "blogs, podcasts, websites, email and video".

There are other areas which could benefit from Twitters need to be concise. It would be wonderful if celebrities {the Twitterati?} could only accept BAFTA's or OSCAR's by Twitter for example.

Encouragingly, when Twitter themselves won an IT industry web award Twitter staff accepted their prize with the remark "we'd like to thank you in 140 characters or less. And we just did!

Less beneficially Twitter collects personally identifiable information about its users and shares it with third parties. The service considers that information an asset, and reserves the right to sell it if the company changes hands.

Another reason why I'll not be signing up.

Twitter has now been assimilated into language with one new addition to Oxford English Dictionary this year being a 'Tweeting' - a meeting arranged by the use of Twitter.

That'll be one meeting I wont be going to.............

see you later.

Listening to REM 'Shiny Happy People'


Unknown said...

You are right on the mark again Alistair. There is something innately satisfying to holding a communication in your hands and being able to look at it as often as you like. I text my children while they are away and when I am lucky, they text me back. I treasure the moments, but there is no way to save them. Will anyone ever find a bundle of old love tweets tied up with ribbon? The young are missing out and they don’t even know it.

Alistair said...

Love tweets tied up with ribbon.

Lovely image and one I hadn't even thought of.


Morning's Minion said...

I suppose if I can make a blog work [sort of, some of the time] I could possibly figure out how to text or tweet. I don't care to!
Like you, I am amazed at what people can possibly find to report or broadcast in endless minute detail. Is it being part of a fad, the "in" technology? Is it about having something to say and someone to say it to?
I really appreiciate e-mail and cell phones, I even have a Face Book account to keep up with family and friends at a distance---although I forget to check it for weeks on end. Most of it seems so trivial--as you say--do we really need to know who just drove by, who stopped where for coffee?
The use of language is such a fine art in my mind--taking time to ponder the right word to express a thought, to incorporate humor, wit, to use the distinctive "voice" which you mentioned in an earlier post.
Dare I state that most of what passes as communication now is shallow, unmemorable, slef-important babble? {I said it anyway, didn't I!]

Big Swifty said...

I've been tempted by tweets, but am not impressed by what I've seen. But then I have a bit of a reputation for going on too long and 140 symbols is simply NOT ENOUGH! I text a little, and do LOTS of Facebooking - I find it a great way to keep in touch with lots of people.

Unknown said...

I agree with pretty much all that has been said by you and those that have commented. I once came up with a slogan for Twitter. "Twitter - Giving a voice to those with nothing to say!". But they declined to use it. :-)

However I have signed up...but I never log in. Instead each post I make to e-clecticism is automatically tweeted as another way of getting it "out there". I'm not sure it is working but it hasn't cost me anything.

Alistair said...

Hullo Jono,

Actually I thought if anyone would give me a hard time for this post it might be you as one of the 'technorati'.

I suppose in reality I don't have any problem with the theory but as they say

"in practice, theory doesn't work."
sorry - I do love my cliches}


Bovey Belle said...

There's no way I could - or would want - to condense my thoughts so much. I love words and descriptions and not to put too fine a point on it, the trivial and banal have no allure for me . . . Still, Twitter sounds like the curates' egg, good in parts. Not for me though.

Anonymous said...

Och c'mon Al, get with it !
If you've never tweeted you've never lived !
I have a very active Facebook but never use the Twitter account set up for me by my oldest we'an !
You're definitely getting old Al !!
Banal Babble & tripe it all is ,, but happy, friendly babble. You can't twit-babble a declaration of War ,, ask Tony !
I was impressed by the guy in the loo though !!

Now as for Shakespeare .,., he might actually have been improved by shortening ?
He took up way too much time in Eng. Lit. !

So is Twitter all bad you ask ?
Yeah it probably is ! Makes kids lazy and is further dumbing down the human race.
It's worrying the number of places of education using this quick communication system !
Can you imagine a world where we all talk that way too !!?? Arghhhhhhhhh
However on the up side .,., blogging has introduced, for budding authors like us ,, the writing of a Blook !

Now how are you on TextSpeak Al ?
RURdy2GtWivTTxt ?
Or are you asking, WotsGoinOn ?
You could ask FADATAPATMWCGOTAC (Fancy a drink & then a Pizza & then maybe we can go on to a club ? )
Or easier understood perhaps LtsGt2gthrFrPzzNdPnt ?
Then there's the famous ! Who's this ?
@ @ @ @ :-) ( Marge Simpson ? )
BYKT ( but you knew that ? )
By now Al, you'll be HOMEW ( hanging on my every word ? )
And finally, it's back to old Shakespeare again ,, you work this one out
ShLICmprThe2ASMrsDy? ThouRtMrLvly&MrTmprt ....... Hahahahaha

Byeee M80 ( El Scud )

Anonymous said...

And of course you still haven't even touched on The Others yet !!
You really have still got a lot to learn Al.. ( hey me too ! )
Google bookmark
Mister Wong
Slashdot (here it's called Pishdot of course)
Stumble Upon
Yahoo my Web

Mr. Scudder asks Why,why,why do we need them ??

Alistair said...


{stop it Scudder your doin' me heid in}


{is it a mid life crisis}


{or are you just bonkers?}

To be honest even my texts are completely in normal language right down to the poor pronunciation marks. I know my neices hearts sink when they get a text from me as its usually 3 pages long. But on the bright side they rarely text me..... EEEE- Haaa!
and curmudgeonly yours......Al.

Kaitlyn Bolyard said...

Hmm..have to admit, I use Twitter for shameless self promotion. I use Facebook for the same thing. Not really to communicate with people, just to try to lure them into reading some piece of drivel I've written.

I found this very interesting, and also terrifying. Mobile communication, and constant status updates has always felt a little too connected for me. I prefer a little bit of privacy.

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