140 Characters, and All I Got Was This Lousy Tweet


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“Why Twitter Sucks,” Alexander Zaitchik’s spot-on cover story for last week’s Sacramento News & Review. “Twitter brings us within sight of an apotheosis of those aspects of American culture that have become all too familiar in recent years: look-at-me adolescent neediness, constant-contact media addiction, birdlike attention-span compression and vapidity to the point of depravity,” Zaitchick reasons, in a 277-character thesis statement that surely would feel like a damn dissertation to those who “tweet” daily or, God help them, hourly. Besides being required reading for anyone with an acute distaste for social networking sites and an unhealthy bent for conspiracy theories — spoiler alert: it equates the language-slaying, narcissist-enabling service to a global pandemic — the article is also OMG, LOL funny. Among the better passages:

How can you not hate a site that encourages people to post, “At the park—I love squirrels!” and “F@*k! I forgot to TiVo Lost last night.” How can you not want to slap these people with a mackerel?

Just last week, (tech blogger Clive) Thompson contributed to Twitter’s national epic psychosocial genome project by tweeting: “I’m extremely sad that I can’t find Liz Phair’s ‘Rocket Boy’ to blip on blip.fm.” Frowny faces all around, Clive.

The most maddening defense of Twitter is the argument that it constitutes some form of art. Boosters like to claim that compressing communication into 140 characters results in a kind of computer-age poetry. “[Twitter users are] trying to describe their activities in a way that is interesting to others: the status update as a literary form,” writes Thompson in his NYT piece. Howard Lindzon, founder of StockTwits, recently told the Financial Times that the format “is an art form.”

So is speaking through burps. Again, any attempt to defend tweets as some kind of new American haiku runs up against the reality of site. Here’s that great 21st-century New York Twitter version of the haiku poet Basho, known as “aliglia”: “OMG, I want brownies! When are we having dinner again? :)”

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