Twitter — that duping timesucker with an ugly name

Posted in Duff 'n Stuff

Duff ’n Stuff, May 13, 2013

Here’s an admission.  I don’t really “get” Twitter, and don’t have much faith in its value for those of us who are not celebrity tweeters.

I have a writer friend who said she has 14,000 followers, and who admitted she doesn’t actually “read” anything they post or follow any of the conversations on Twitter. My guess is that those 14,000 “followers” aren’t reading anything she writes either. Sounds like a big waste of time to me. I mean, I understand the networking value, getting one’s name out there and all. But, really, what is the point?

The other day I was working when I noticed a “Tweet” came through from a colleague. Even though it remained true to the minimum of 140 characters or less requirement, it had within it five! links. By the time I had clicked on each link to see where they all led, 40 minutes had passed and there were about 300! new Tweets to look at when I went back to the feed. What?

How are all these people having the time to read all this stuff, to follow all these links that lead to articles, news stories, photos, etc? What am I missing here? OK, I know that everybody doesn’t follow the conversations of every Tweet, but I just don’t understand how anyone, especially people who need to be doing work in their respective fields, could possibly have time to follow Twitter in any productive way, unless it is the only thing they have to do for their job. How are people who also have to devote hours to their work, family and play lives having time for Twitter? Some of these feeds have thousands of followers or more. “What the what?” (as Liz Lemon would say.) Are we becoming a society of  trash pickers; Tweet-feeders wasting time around the online water-cooler, unable to focus our brains long enough to read something of substance?

Punch eyes a family of ducks at Swan Lake in Coupeville. (Patricia Duff photo)

Punch eyes a family of ducks at Swan Lake in Coupeville. (Patricia Duff photo)

As editor of this magazine, there is nothing more important to me than making sure I stay on top of the comings and goings of arts and culture on Whidbey Island. Within the confines of this relatively small area of land, it’s a fairly manageable task, with or without Twitter and Facebook (and for the record, I know Facebook is a different kind of tool and works beautifully for spreading the word.) But I was relieved when I heard a story on National Public Radio that talked about the emerging popularity of the long-form article and a return to good, investigative journalism; a backlash of sorts against the cabal of short, sharp, shocks we experience daily on the Internet via Twitter and other social media sites. Hallelujah! No longer do we have to follow the race to the bottom of our tech-obsessed world, where it seems everybody and their mother has become a journalist, writer or blogger, adding to the glut of information in this overly-informed society. Quick, cheap, non-substantive trash is no longer the only form being developed online, and there seems to be good segment of the population who feel the same way I do about Twitter and other technology over-do-it-ness.

Longform.org is a website that recommends new and classic non-fiction from around the web. It looks for pieces that are more than 2,000 words and that are freely available online, culled from popular publications such as the  New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker magazine, Slate, Esquire, Playboy, and others. There’s also a Longform Fiction site.

It’s refreshing to see a site that promotes textured reporting – the long, investigative style reporting that’s sometimes hard to find amid all the flotsam swimming around the web. This site acts as a kind of filter and encourages readers to take their time to read a good story, rather than pushing them to rush through and click onto the next site, Tweet, blog, etc.

I understand how valuable Twitter can be to journalists in the fast-moving world of breaking news.  spend extra time outside in the hinterlands of this island, perhaps down at the pond staring at a family of ducks with my dog, than wasting time bent over a screen looking at short blurbs of mainly nothing much on Twitter.

See you outside.

From the heart,
Patricia Duff

An upcoming outside event! Don’t miss the Penn Cove Water Festival in Coupeville from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 18. 2013 is the 22nd year of the Penn Cove Water Festival, bringing the historic Water Festival to a new life as our Native community and neighbors participate in their annual tribal canoe races, and townspeople gather to celebrate our history and the waters that surround us. Visit the website for more.

 

Patricia Duff is a journalist, freelance writer and the editor of this magazine.

 

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