Let’s call it “Twitterphobia.” Several times a week, in my usual perusal of weekly magazines, op-ed pieces, and current event commentary I run into a well-respected and well-researched writer bemoaning Twitter. “Twitter is dumbing down our teenagers,” they say. “Twitter is besieging our English majors.” “Twitter is poisoning our minds and starving us of the few intellectual merits we still have.”
Nice try, but Twitter ain’t the issue folks. In fact, I think Twitter and its 140-character messages is causing a flippin’ amazing surge in creative thinking. Let me explain.
- Though some say 140 characters is a too short to say much of anything, I say the 140 character limit Twitter employs actually pushes us to write with precision, creativity, and pizzazz. Who knows, maybe its just the the fact that there’s a limit at all causes anyone with tenure to freak out over a perceived threat to intellectual freedom. Mark Twain once apologized to an editor when sending in a new essay, “I’m sorry I didn’t have time to make this shorter.” Brevity is not the enemy. Sometimes the attacks feel like a group of poets worrying long form poetry is at risk, but instead of writing good long form poetry they lash out against haikus. I say simply: brevity is beautiful.
- Sure, Twitter isn’t a platform for drawn-out arguments laced with careful caveats, but it’s not trying to be. What Twitter can do – really well, in fact – is point people in the direction of just that sort of work. Every day, I click on Internet links recommended by those I follow on Twitter and arrive at fantastic articles, sometimes very long, which I often then recommend to my followers on Twitter as well. In fact, the New York Times and Slate recently reported that some of their most-read articles over the past few years have been their longest. Twitter isn’t killing long-form journalism, rather, it might be resuscitating it after all.
- It’s about connections, people, and not in the way your grandparents connected. I’m not an Internet culture guru, but I know this much: Twitter connects people in significant ways that can affect us in really powerful ways. Yes, the online community connects us in different ways than the café downtown, but let’s remember: different is not always bad, it’s just different. I get book recommendations from Twitter, celebrate Birthdays on Twitter, hear about the best new microbrews on Twitter, am tipped to breaking news on Twitter, and receive real meaningful support from friends I know well and friends I’ve never met on Twitter. To claim this sort of community is somehow less significant or less meaningful because of the platform is akin to saying every partnered couple that first met in a bar now emphasizes alcohol over each other.
So sure, technophobes and Twitter-ists, keep the punches coming. Yes, Twitter isn’t perfect, but neither is your prose. So, please, at least make your attacks informed. In fact, make them good and clear enough to be summarized in a punchy headline, disseminated on Twitter, and affect the hundreds of helpful connections I’ve made on Twitter.