What’s The Point Of Twitter?

    April 15, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Determining the reality of Twitter might be a question best reserved for later, or never. Reality’s difficult enough in the so-called "real" physical world. The trouble with Twitter, like the trouble with many things people will argue about, is a trouble originating with humans, not the thing itself: the need to define a thing.

What is it? What is it used for? What is its potential? What are the limits? Who else is using it and why? What can we learn from it? Should I be using it too? Is it okay if I walk away from it? Do I have to use the word "tweet?"

Live the Questions
I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. — Rainer Maria Rilke, "Letters to a Young Poet"


 While you’re at it, ask yourself what is the meaning of a fallen leaf, if there really is one main sound from which all sounds spring, what is the likelihood of becoming one with a stone and understanding its stone-ness, and whether you should wear acid-washed jeans should they ever come back in style.

The frontrunner for answering the Twitter reality question is that all signs seem to point toward "yes."

Is it useful? Yes. Is it a waste of time? Yes. Is it not a waste of time? Yes. Is there not a point to these questions? Yes.


Some are simply walking away from the questions. Andrew Baron put his Twitter account, and his 1,400 followers up for auction on eBay. Why? He wasn’t really using it. As you might imagine, this sparked all kinds of other questions, including whether or not an individual Twitter account, like someone’s stream-of-consciousness, has real monetary value. Current bid is $1,125.

Hugh Macleod didn’t waste much time explaining or pondering the monetary value of his account. To him it was worth the amount of time it took to hit the delete button.

For those not sniffing and walking away, new applications are popping up with more frequency to help make the most of your Twitterized reality. Most recently, there’s Twitlinks.com, a sort of real-time version of Techmeme, selectively pulling from tweets emanating from the Important Bloggers Club.

If, while your BlackBerry is inaccessible, your thumbs are involuntarily tweeting onto the pages of Sky Mall, you can plan ahead to ease your OCD by using TweetLater, which allows you to schedule tweets in advance of your absence.

Which makes it sound really important. Or pathetic, one.

For me, it’s not about collecting followers. You can never be too sure, as with anything on the Internet, what’s real and what’s not. This morning I was tested by Andre Nantel, whose new Twitter account asked "RU4Real?" The experiment yields just how many either blindly follow, or have scripts that make them blindly follow.

Dr. Phil, and behaviorists like him, would say nobody does anything without some kind of payoff. You could use the TweetCloud application to pool a person’s tweets together to get a better idea of what that payoff might be. For Jason Calacanis, his pet topic, understandably so, is Mahalo. So there’s that.

There’s also a closer reason for why I use Twitter: I view it as a kind of impressionist painting. Not that those impressions are always true. You could look at my TwitterCloud and make all kinds of incorrect conclusions, even though some insights into my psyche might be accurate. For me, it’s the real-time, fuzzy glimpse at reality that is important, not necessarily the moral of the tale.

The best stories, by the way, have no point.

But maybe more than one will join in fascination by watching Baron’s artistic Twitter Madness YouTube submission, which broadcasts without any external commentary the randomness of Twitterers. (Externally, I will comment that it is a good reflection of the randomness of creation and thought in general.)

What I like about Twitter is knowing that handlebar moustaches are coming back, that Craig Newmark is hanging out at Carmel winery, that Bluegrass still matters in the Bluegrass, and that Robert Scoble is confused about the time change in Israel—and that Scoble is hanging out there with a bunch of other key influencers.

I guess, but do not know, that at the end of the day Twitter for me is about a weird Twitter nirvana, where I can observe but not be a part of, where truth and untruth sweep across my horizon in a way that I am separate from them, where reality is what it is: something indefinable.