In defense of Twitter

An acquaintance of mine has posted a good piece about his growing dislike of Twitter. Here – take a look.

I’ve grown to dislike Twitter. My recent experiment on Twitter even made me dislike me for a little while. I’d like to say it was the hack that did it to me. But it wasn’t. 

Source: Why Twitter Made Me Dislike it … and Me – Manhattan Minoan

[While you’re on his blog, hit the tab for Conversations – amazing vignettes of conversations he has with cabbies around the world. Some of my favorite reading.]

But, in response to Bob, I’d like to say a few words in defense of that little bird service that causes so much trouble:

I’m not here to defend Twitter; if it went away I wouldn’t really mourn, though there’s nothing quite like watching America watch something together on television via Twitter timeline. It has made the Oscars bearable (though I still question why I would devote 4 hours of my life to watching people congratulate themselves) and it’s unbeatable during the Super Bowl ad rush and these cringe-worthy presidential debates. In a world where we all scatter to our own screens to binge shows on Netflix, it’s nice to have the occasional joint viewing experience, now complete with brilliant snarky commentary crowdsourced via Twitter.

But for me, I use Twitter for these reasons:
1. It serves as a place where I can throw the hundred “oh that’s a good read! I should point this out to people!” articles that pass through my information flow each week. I don’t really care who is or isn’t watching; if I can take 30 seconds to hashtag the article appropriately, it remains a resource for anyone else doing a search on that topic (at least for the next few hours/days). And that, in turn, introduces me to other people on twitter who are reading and posting similar content.

2. It connects me with educators and thinkers in my fields of interest. I primarily focus on higher education, teaching and learning, creativity and design thinking, and consumer tech. Education is the focus of my life, and Twitter has connected educators like never before. Via hashtags like #edchat and #edreform and #edtech, those of us working on particular questions can stay informed, find comrades of mind, and toss out ideas for discussion. I don’t like trying to read or hold discussions on Twitter, but I’ve found several incredible education bloggers and writers thanks to Twitter hashtags in that field.

3. Conference commentary. Who ever looks at their notes once they come home from a conference? I always have good intentions, and then suffer a twang of guilt when I toss out that pretty conference booklet from Nashville in 2003. But I haven’t looked at it since, and few conference presentations are good enough to merit space on my permanent bookshelf. Excellent presenters make it onto my blogroll or bookshelf; the rest are nice encounters. So live-tweeting thoughts and quotes from a conference lets me feel a sense of camaraderie with the participants in the moment, and theoretically record valuable thoughts for “later” (which will never come, but at least I don’t feel guilty or anxious about it).

4. Real-time news. Nothing beats Twitter for news that’s so fresh, the journalists haven’t even gotten a chance to open a Word document and start typing. This is primarily valuable in moments of tragedy – the Paris bombing last fall, for example, or hurricane coverage. Or the Iran election a few years ago. But it’s unbeatable. You have to recognize that every eyewitness account is biased, but taken together this sea of voices from within an event, in real time, provides a view we’ve never had before. Ironically, it’s more nuanced than having a TV camera on the scene because it represents a plurality of viewpoints.

Twitter has deep problems. It’s difficult to find the content you’re looking for without more effort than the casual user is willing to invest, but without that investment Twitter can be a firehose of mediocrity, vacuous celebrity ego, and horrific racism and misogyny. It’s stunning how broken it can be — yet still provide a “public square” that exists nowhere else in our lives right now.

You can follow me on Twitter at @lorojoro where I mostly post links to whatever article caught my attention lately and retweet the best snarky comments that appear during the Super Bowl or Game of Thrones or whatever.

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