The Problem with Twitter

Twitter has exposed the cracks beneath its veneer and shown it is nothing more than a fad

Despite its growing popularity--thanks to celebrity exposure and the infamy it has gathered from the swine flu debacle--Twitter has exposed the cracks beneath its veneer and shown it is nothing more than a fad. Its services are limited, its fan base drops out quicker than a brick in a wet paper bag, and its potential for causing harm only increases as the days go by.

Limited services

Sparseness is the name of the game with Twitter, but what happens when the public lusts for something more? One of the reasons Facebook gained and maintained popularity in the social networking circuit is its ability to change with the times, adjust to user demands, and integrate outside developers into the melting pot. Facebook is an immersive experience, and this is clearly what the public wants. Twitter is not. Twitter is 140-characters of Facebook status updates without the ability to process external multimedia outside of squashed URLs. Unless Twitter evolves into a more interactive, in-depth service, it may find itself extinct.

Disloyal fan base

The foundation of Twitter's decay, of course, would come from its members, and its membership is dwindling -- fast. Sixty percent of new Twitter users jump ship after a month. The variety of reasons one might dump Twitter aren't as important as the breakup itself. People came; they saw; they bailed. Clearly Twitter does not provide 60 percent of its users with the kind of service they thought they were signing up for. This calls the longevity of the service itself into question. It's no longer about a fickle, bored public, but rather a service's ability to capture an audience and rise above cult status.

But perhaps Twitter isn't bent for massive consumption and would rather exist as a B-grade midnight movie. This idea shoots a hole in the theory that Twitter represents "new media" and a "cultural revolution" but rather a brief, distracting fluke that Oprah used -- for a while.

Causing harm

Still, Twitter is harmless -- unless it's unleashed into a swarm of panicky individuals facing a devastating crisis. Like, say, right now. Since the swine flu has dominated the world's attention as quickly as the disease appears to be spreading, Twitter has been on the heels of the crisis, creating an outbreak of its own: misinformation. For as many unreliable and blatantly untrue tweets out there, there are at least as many from people begging others to stop freaking out and start paying attention. Soon the feeds will clot with fat and no information will pass through at all -- it'll become a drain clogged with millions of screaming voices that have nothing to say.

The public has blamed the 24-hour news cycle for a lot, including, but not limited to, fear mongering and repetition of the inane, all in an effort to capture the highest TV ratings. Twitter rides the same rails but without the dollars; rather, its new celebrity-endorsed credo is collect as many followers as possible by any means available. That's why #swineflu paranoia has grown so enormously: Twitter, the world's largest and most crowded water cooler, cares less about the one with the most information but rather the one with the largest mouth and loudest voice. People want to be recognized; they want to be followed and listened to; reach 1 million; end up on CNN as the guy that captured the nation's attention. It's helplessly inline with yesterday's American dream of striking it rich and becoming famous but it's unhinged, limited, and fading fast.

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Brennon Slattery

PC World (US online)

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