Thursday, April 2, 2009

Twitter thinking

As millions before me, I've discovered twitter (at For those who don't know, Twitter is a way of exchanging short messages (of 140 letters or less) between you and your "followers", that is, people that has subscribed to your list of comments. I have to admit that it's a very entrancing way of communicating with other people. The immediacy of it gives you a feeling of personal interaction that you can't find in most of the other media. But there are other things to consider about it.
While you can use it as a information gathering tool, or just a a blog advertising venue, a lot of people utilize Twitter to post comments or short thoughts about a particular topic. And this is the factor that I don't like. Due to the 140 characters' limitation, your comments on a particular topic have to be, by the nature of the media...up to 140 characters. And while this has the laudable characteristic of making you be more concise and precise in your thought pathways(something that I approve completely and don't apply sadly most of the time!), it has the negative effect of oversimplifying the issues. 
This characteristic makes Twitter a tool only to publish "first level" thinking (see previous post of September 29, 2008). That is, the most basic and rough conclusion that you can come up for a particular problem. While this is avoided when you only publish a link to a more extensive article, what this makes in most of the cases, is to make people complacent on their thoughts. They publish this rough idea, and a lot of times you will not continue developing it, because...well, because you already talked about it!. 
One possible objection to this line of thinking is the conception that if you can't explain something in a short sentence or couple of sentences, then you don't really understand what you are talking about. While I may agree with this premises for certain type of explanations, like basic concepts or definitions that you need to know for a problem, I disagree completely that you can explain a multi layered thought pathway in 140 characters. Saying it in another may easily make a screwdriver with 2 pieces, but the car that you are building with it will by necessity need many pieces. 
What can be the consequences in the long run? Well, if you get used to this way of exchanging ideas, you have the risk of becoming used to it, and start self editing your thought pathways away from Twitter, and making decisions based on this poor amount of evidence. And due to this our grasp at reality will become much more basic(in the bad sense of the word) and tenuous. 
Also this may foster non productive discussions, when 2 members discuss different points of views, without realizing that each one misinterpreted the original statement due to the lack of clarification.
So for myself, I will try to control my impulse of publishing all my thoughts there, without further polishing in a more extensive this blog! Also, I don't want to be unfair with Twitter. I think it's a great tool for exposing yourself to different experiences and thought pathways of people in very different areas of human culture. Just know that you may not be getting their whole depth.
This post is obviously more than 140 characters, I think now it's time to think another thought!

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