It would seem strange for a man who has the internet to thank for much of his publicity to refer to it as a “fever swamp,” but that’s just what Daniel Lyons has done in his latest article for Newsweek. If the internet is such a lovely place, what does that make social media sites such as Twitter? Not a place you’d like to be, that’s for sure.
Lyons contends that most of Twitter is “garbage,” and deems it “even stupider than TV,” which as we all know is nothing but “fat people dancing, talentless people singing, [and] Glenn Beck slinging conspiracy theories.” Yikes. Lyons continues to reveal that Twitter owes its stupidity to those who populate its ranks, people such as Ashton Kutcher, Ashlee Simpson, and Dane Cook, who spout nonsense via their Twitter streams to millions of followers. Although I agree in some cases, Lyons is missing the point on several levels.
Lyons represents the not-uncommon closed-minded view of Twitter that dismisses the site as providing nothing more than vapid updates from vapid people. There are certainly some vapid updates out there, but the site is what you make it (it’s clear that Lyons tried real hard to understand it – his stream boasts 23 followers and a single tweet). For many, it serves as an RSS feed, updating users with information from a variety of thought leaders and publications. The networking and job hunting uses of the site can’t be denied either, as noted in this Mashable article. For others, it keeps them in touch with friends and family while opening them up to new people and things.
Lyons raises good points about why Twitter will succeed, but it’s not because the service is stupid, it’s because it’s accessible. So is Facebook. Anyone can hop on and start interacting, even “skeevy marketers,” who may not be skeevy at all. Many are improving their customer service and building relationships with customers who care about them. These days consumers seek out the messages they want to consume, rather than allowing themselves to be pummeled by those they can do without. Twitter is another way to facilitate this interaction, and the benefit goes both ways.
Rather than classify human conversation as meaningless drivel, Lyons could have delved a bit deeper into why Twitter is truly as popular as it is. It doesn’t provide brainless entertainment like television, as he argues, because Twitter is fundamentally different than television. Rather than providing a person with their own vehicle to spew nonsense, it provides people with a means to communicate. Maybe Lyons would have figured it out if he had made more than one tweet.
Contributed by Jim Fay. Follow him @JGF3