Is Twitter evil?

Famed writer Jonathan Franzen is not a fan of on-line distractions. He reportedly gummed up his computer's RJ-45 with glue so there would be no Internet distracting him from his work. According to this article Franzen said, “Twitter is unspeakably irritating. Twitter stands for everything I oppose. It's hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters … It's like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis. Or it's like writing a novel without the letter 'P'… It's the ultimate irresponsible medium.”

He has called the Internet “the bloodsucking monster squid.”

I don't use Twitter. Nor do I Facebook, assuming that is now a verb. Or Tumblr, or Flickr (what do these people have against the letter ‘e'?) or make use of any of those innumerable sharing sites. I do have a LinkedIn account, mostly to follow some groups. I tried Facebook for a year or two, but thought the signal to noise ratio was vanishingly small. My wife uses it to stay connected to family and friends, and she finds the posts useful. Different strokes for different folks.

A friend told me he likes to tweet while writing. For him the exchanges are apparently like an energy drink. I prefer to avoid any interruption while doing something requiring a lot of thought; getting into a zone with the world tuned out works best for me. Others feel differently.

Then there's the time required. Interneting can be a tremendous time sink, and, like any technology, is something one must control. Ice cream is the same: how easy it would be to eat a quart, how awful you'd feel afterwards. Working from home, there's no one looking over my shoulder, and I could easily lose the day in reading politics, news, or about engineering. But then it's impossible to get anything done, so I ration non-business time on the ‘net carefully.

For me, Twitter and all of the rest would consume time I'd rather spend sailing, woodworking, working or hanging with my friends and family.

While I agree with Franzen that a 140 character tweet does not allow for crafting a careful argument, this is a straw man argument. Twitter was never meant to be some budding Kafka's next medium. By this logic post cards are terrible. Yet a post card is a wonderful way to show someone you're thinking of him or her. It would be a lousy vehicle for the next Metamorphosis.

The only work of Franzen's I have read is Freedom . It is an interesting story. But the book is reeking with foul language; so much so that it seems that the expletives are just shoddy replacements for careful writing. Ironically the work feels like some drunk 20-year-old party animal's tweets. By the end I was left with the impression that Franzen has a lot of talent, which does show through from time to time, but he is lazy. Or he's looking for a gig as a shock jock.What do you think? Do you tweet, Tumblr, Facebook, etc.? Are they time wasters or a valuable asset for you?

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded developmentissues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companieswith their embedded challenges, and works as an expert witness onembedded issues. Contact him at . His website is.

8 thoughts on “Is Twitter evil?

  1. For me the social media are an essential part of business communications. They keep me informed on what is happening now in my fields of interest, and are ways to get noticefrom someone who does not routinely check my website.

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  2. Pointless, probably but it is a stretch to say twitter is actually evil.

    The way it is used, and the culture that has built up around it is, however destructive to both information and critical thinking.

    Here in Christchurch NZ we had some big earthquake

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  3. I think your phrase “Different strokes for different folks” sums it up perfectly. I have reservations about Twitter, but I think that what matters most is how it's used. People blame PowerPoint for bad presentations; it is not the software's fault that so

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  4. I agree those are tools and they are not responsible of the use people does on them.

    My opinion is quite similar to Jack's. On the professional side, I have a LinkedIn account and don't use anything else as I consider them distractions. As for the Interne

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  5. As some wag pointed out, “Twitter is another outlet for the mentally retarded” (or words to that effect). Not that it was an attack on the genuinely mentally ill, just a broadside against those who are emotionally incontinent, self-centred, and with a some

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  6. I tried Facebook for a few days in 2009 and then deactivated my account. At the request of a friend who wanted us to better keep in touch, I reactivated it last week, but after a few days I deactivated it once again. Perhaps I should have been more selecti

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  7. I believe that Twitter and short-message blog services in general are not cause, but consequence. They owe their initial popularity to simple fact that public find frenetic tempo and discussing the obvious acceptable and entertaining.

    They are like guns,

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