Monday, July 04, 2011
The Twitter Experiment
I’m not quite that big on trying out new technology as it comes out. I’ve stated before that I’ll try anything once, but that one time may occur quite some time after it has become a fad.
“You have a lot of money, why don’t you buy an iPad?” my student once asked. She had brought in her own iPad, and I was just busy flicking through its functions. Having lots of money, of course, is a subjective notion, but while I will not claim to being poor, a part of the reason why I don’t see myself as that is because I don’t see the need to spend lots of money on something I don’t really consider as a necessity as this point in time.
Then again, I never did want to get a mobile phone, either. My father had to practically force me to get one. That was one unwanted bit of luxury that grew into a necessity. Damn it. One of my students doesn’t have an email address, and I admire his resolve/stupidity for not making the not-so-supreme effort to get one. It’s so easy to get one that everyone has at least two, but it is the resistance of the easy things in life that requires more discipline, and may be more difficult to uphold.
Anyways, I digress. The same student also practically pushed me into submission in getting a Twitter account. It wasn’t a situation I engineered, but then again, I did nothing to truly avoid it, either. Truth be told, I am not a big fan of Twitter. I understand, before the fact, that there is a limit of 140-odd characters that one can write. Within such a limited space, I wonder about the kind of effects it may have on language. Language, as it is, is not being practiced in the most proper of ways in day-to-day life. It is something I can accept, but when my students start to use SMS and Twitter language in their scripts, assignments and tests, eyebrows are raised, and question marks arise in inverse proportion to the marks given. I wonder whether there will indeed come a time when such language will be accepted within the confines of legal and official business. “Ur honor, we tinks he iz gilty.” Perhaps not, but then again, such is the evolution of life and language that it’s difficult to keep track.
Going beyond that, there is an immediacy with Twitter that makes it all the more sensational and sensationalised, at times. It is considered almost a requirement for many celebrities these days, for example, to have a Twitter account of some sort. Coupled with Facebook, the T and F logo of both social media entities have become commonplace even in nationally-run advertisements. I remember when it was still a big deal for an advert to have the URL of its website. Now such things are considered passé.
It is because of its immediacy that it seems to me to inspire a sense of…well, stupidity. Quite frankly, because Twitter allows for people to post something almost instantaneously (not that it’s the only one, mind, but I suppose blogs and Facebook would require you go take more steps in the process), I personally think that it has reduced the thinking time required between the action and reaction. An event or an issue may well inspire strong feelings in us, but the time required for deeper trains of thoughts to leave the station is now reduced significantly. I find that a lot of people who do post do so with less thinking of the consequences of their actions. What that results in is a number of very reactive, and very strong comments being posted. Since that post itself is very limited, the issues that already lacks the proper context when reported in official media is stripped bare of the facts and figures, as the lines between which we can read is being further deleted into non-existence.
Furthermore, for myself, I don’t particularly find the things that many people post to be very interesting. I suppose there is a value in it to other people. An acquaintance I met recently talked about how he enjoys reading about Jack Wilshere’s daily routine. He is a big fan of both Arsenal and the footballer, and so he gets a kick out of reading things like, “Just finished training. Heading out with Gael now. Feeling good, feeling good.” I happen to think it’s a little banal, but then again, maybe I would feel differently if I am as big a fan of Wilshere as he is.
I fear, however, that Twitter is not necessarily a revolutionary medium, more of an evolutionary one. I say ‘fear’, because from what I have observed, it appears to be the next step in the creation of images.
What is this creation of images I'm talking about? Simply put, people use it to make themselves look cool in the eyes of others. Case in point: the taking of pictures in almost every situation imaginable. I do not initially understand this notion of taking pictures of everything, until I realise that it’s not quite done for the reasons I take pictures. People do it so that they can be seen eating the nice kind of food in the nice kinds of restaurants with the fleeting moments of fleetingly famous people you’d meet once in a while. That sentence sound somewhat degrading of the lives of others (cheap plug of awesome German film), but while I can see that clearly some people enjoy this, I make no apologies for not subscribing to this notion. The memories of the experiences I live through, I prefer to live through myself. I no longer enjoy living my life through the looking glass.
Which is why I myself have subscribed to Twitter.
That may run counter to what I have just written above, but the observation was made without me being a part of the mob. Such observations may have its merits, but it can never quite impart the same kind of experience, knowledge and credibility of having actually been in the trenches. Lest I be accused of picking the wrong metaphor and lessening the efforts of those who died at Somme, I do believe in getting down and dirty with subject matters; given the circumstances, it is not enough for me to hold strong opinions from afar. In fact, a lot of the opinions I hold can be traced to the experiences I’ve subjected myself to. ‘Subjected myself to’ is not inappropriate either, since this won’t quite be something I do as willingly, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to try and see what it’s like. Maybe I can be convinced to change my mind; what is more likely, however, is that, not unlike my Facebook, it will serve as nothing more than an extra conduit for the extension of my personality and character (a side of it, at least), in a different medium.
Evolutionary, not revolutionary. Whether that will veer positively or otherwise, I guess we'll have to check back here at a later date.
*You can check out Fikri's Twitter antics at @thekingoflame.