Sobering Thoughts on Twitter

Nicholas Carr, author of the book The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google and the article Is Google Making Us Stupid? recently wrote a sobering blog post: Twitter dot dash.

Here are some highlights:

“Twitter unbundles the blog, fragments the fragment. It broadcasts the text message, turns SMS into a mass medium. And what exactly are we broadcasting? The minutiae of our lives. The moment-by-moment answer to what is, in Twitterland, the most important question in the world: What are you doing? Or, to save four characters: What you doing? Twitter is the telegraph of Narcissus. Not only are you the star of the show, but everything that happens to you, no matter how trifling, is a headline, a media event, a stop-the-presses bulletin. Quicksilver turns to amber.”

He goes on:

“The great paradox of ‘social networking’ is that it uses narcissism as the glue for ‘community.’ Being online means being alone, and being in an online community means being alone together. The community is purely symbolic, a pixellated simulation conjured up by software to feed the modern self’s bottomless hunger. Hunger for what? For verification of its existence? No, not even that. For verification that it has a role to play. As I walk down the street with thin white cords hanging from my ears, as I look at the display of khakis in the window of the Gap, as I sit in a Starbucks sipping a chai served up by a barista, I can’t quite bring myself to believe that I’m real. But if I send out to a theoretical audience of my peers 140 characters of text saying that I’m walking down the street, looking in a shop window, drinking tea, suddenly I become real. I have a voice. I exist, if only as a symbol speaking of symbols to other symbols.”

One comment on “Sobering Thoughts on Twitter

  1. Dave says:

    Thanks for the article, Josh. It brings to mind a comment I read recently from David Wells in The Courage to Be Protestant. Wells was remarking on the fact that while earlier generations were concerned with a person’s character, our generation is instead concerned with personality. Wells remarked, “The result of this shift is that today people engaged in selling themselves. Personalities are marketable commodities but character is not” (p. 148). Wells definitely hit the nail on the head regarding my use of Twitter and Facebook—I tend to use them in order to market my personality to others through witty comments or observations about life. Now, I’ve had to begin to rethink how I am using these tools. Obviously, God is much more concerned that we have a holy and loving character rather than a charming personality.

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