Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm Like A Bird

I've resisted joining Twitter for a long time because, you know, Twitter? Only journalists, nerds and stupid celebrities (and their stalkers) use Twitter, everybody knows that! It's just a wank, right? Worse than blogging, even. Forget about it.

That would probably be a dumb and unfair exaggeration, but that doesn't mean it's not a common reaction. It seems that because Twitter has gone from what? to it's everywhere! with such speed, a lot of people I know already feel that it's just not cool anymore. Of course back when it was cool, hardly anyone was using it, so there was little point in signing up. But now that it's been aggressively colonised by mainstream celebrities, it's just tragically unhip.

It's the same thing that happened to Facebook after your mum and dad joined. The difference is that Facebook, unlike Twitter, enjoyed a good year or so (i.e. 2007) dominated by twentysomethings – the parents and bosses didn't make it over until more recently.

If you were born in the 1980s, you and your friends joined Facebook around 2007–08, right? That was the crucial year-without-parents that entrenched Facebook's social essentiality. And even if you've now changed your mind, even if you now openly despise Facebook, now it's too late! Because if you quit tomorrow, how will you get invited to parties? How will you flirt? How will you play Scrabble? Facebook today is like a mobile phone: it's so culturally pervasive that it's more of a hassle to avoid than it is to play along.

Twitter hasn't had Facebook's luxury of incubated hipster coolness. It has had a huge amount of press coverage and good buzz, but I have a weird suspicion that this might be due to two unusual factors:

1. Twitter is excellent for journalists. It's a 21st-century evolution of the wire service, perfect for concise bulletins and constant updates. And if a whole bunch of journalists are suddenly using a new technology, it makes sense they're going to be interested enough to write a whole bunch of articles about it – even if these journalists are actually an unusual minority, compared to everyone else.*

Of course, I could well be wrong about this. I live in a social bubble of my own. Most people I know don't really dig Twitter, but "most people I know" is not a meaningful demographic – everything I've said here could easily be way off. And yet, recent data indicates that I might be right: it turns out that most Twitter users are older professionals, while twentysomethings are definitely in the minority. But is this the way Twitter is going to stay, or will the demographic suddenly broaden after it passes the tipping point (as recently happened with Facebook)? And so what if it does, and so what if it doesn't?

Anyhow. My point: I joined Twitter this afternoon. Why?
Because yesterday, my housemate joined. Which meant that I suddenly had a total of two close friends on Twitter. If that's all it takes to convince me to join, maybe Twitter really is the future. I honestly don't know.

Answer me, people: is Twitter cool?

And, either way: so what?

*This is only a hypothesis, unfortunately: I've been able to find some data on Twitter demographics, but nothing that talks quantitatively about journalists. So this hunch of mine may be, in fact, complete crap.


  1. In my eyes, twitter is NOT cool, it's way off. However it does intrigue me. I may just think it is no way near 'cool', because i do not understand and really have no use for it.
    But i do have to admit, I joined too, but months ago when i had only just heard of it, thinking i was missing out on something. I haven't used it since. Then I got an email saying someone is 'following' me?! someone i didn't know. I freaked. As i said i haven't used it since, i cant even remember my passwords...
    I tend to gage how 'cool' these kind of things are by my much younger much cooler, hipper and more happening 20 year-old sister. She doesn't like Twitter, but is still loving facebook.

  2. hm I havn't joined yet.. and am avoiding it for the moment. facebook I joined, but I don't use it all that much. maybe i'm reluctant because 'everyone' seems to be twittering.. and i have a blog, so why do I need a mini-blog? and to be honest, I think there's something to retaining what privacy and isolation we have left (not much). but maybe i'm not being fair?

  3. @Carla: yeah, the strangest thing about Twitter is the huge number of complete strangers who start following you! For no apparent reason! Bizarre. Interesting, though. I think there's a lot of twitter spam-people who follow you to try and suck money, but there's also a lot of people who follow you just because they can.

  4. @marie: One thing Twitter is handy for, re: blog vs mini-blog - it's a convenient way to announce that you've done a new blog post, for people who aren't already following your blog (or don't know you have one). I think that's kind of useful.

    Like a Facebook status update, it's also a nice excuse to do little one-liner jokes, poems, koans etc. 160-character flash fiction :)