Saturday, August 08, 2009

Twitter Isn't Cool (at least not traditionally)

It's something of a truism in technology: teens and other "Young People" discover a new technology, embrace it, weave it into their lives... and then the over-35 crowd eventually comes late to the party, desperately trying to "monetize" a phenomenon they don't even understand. This basic fact is so well known, so undisputed, that many companies now actively seek out the next big thing, not just to cash in, but because they're desperately afraid of becoming "irrelevant" if they don't get hip with all that jazz the kids are talkin' about these days. Nobody wants to be a square!

But there's a problem with this new mentality - the "real world" is now so hell-bent on calling out the next internet fad, that they keep jumping the shark before it even learns to swim! Tortured metaphors aside, the bandying about of the term "Web 2.0" to describe anything and everything is endemic of this trend, and it's latest casualty is Twitter.

To hear some tell it, Twitter is the communications medium that's going to change the world. Everyone needs to get on it right now, or they will lose all connection to the younger generation and, as naturally follows, the world.

Funny thing about that; As Ars Technica reports, there are more Twitter users over the age of 55 than under 25. If you're shocked right now, then you've bought into the hype.

It really shouldn't come as much of a surprise that my generation hasn't really latched on to Twitter. I mean let's face it; I just graduated from college. I've been using Facebook for 4 years now, and AOL Instant Messenger for the better part of a decade. Most of my friends are in the same boat. Do we really need another status message to update?

Now, I'm not knocking Twitter. It's intended purpose is pretty limited in scope, but it does it well, and simplicity is often a good reason to use a tool. And I know I'm going to end up getting an account myself at some point, if only to keep in touch with a far-flung friend who's embraced it wholeheartedly. (Of note: There is only one such friend. Most of them use Facebook.) But I'm not excited about Twitter, the way I initially was about, say, Facebook. And I know very few people my age who are. In fact, I know many more who are openly disdainful about it, including my girlfriend, as well as a few friends from college jokingly threatening to disown each other for getting accounts. (Naturally, these threats were made on Facebook...)

I guess my point is... stop trying to make grandiose statements about technology that "Is The Future". The evolution of internet culture has plainly taught us two things: It makes little sense, and it does what it wants.

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