A new communications service named Twitter now makes it possible to blurt out the first thing that pops in your head and broadcast it instantly to all your friends and followers, wherever they may be, via Internet, IM, and text message. Twitter invites its several hundred thousand members to answer the question, “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less, and they do – millions of times a day. Each message is called a “tweet.”
When I checked Twitter’s website, dan1657 had “just got in to work, forgot my phone charging at home.” Less than five seconds later, omaregan was “Just chilling!” Another user tweeted, “Working on stuff and things.”
Is anyone really interested in this omnipresent bombardment of barely conscious stream of consciousness? Really, why Twitter? And why blog? Why podcast? Why text? Why instant message?
BECAUSE I’M HERE!
That’s obviously why Twitter was launched about a year ago by Obvious Corporation, a San Francisco start-up. But Twitter’s appeal goes beyond all the twits looking for affirmation of their existence. Presidential candidate John Edwards is using Twitter to try to keep his followers interested in his day. Judging by his latest tweets, that’s not going to be an easy job. (“Holding a meeting on healthcare in Council Bluffs, Iowa today. Des Moines tonight.”) More humorously, Steven Colbert began Twittering, hoping to surpass Darth Vader in the rankings of the Twitterholics with the most “followers.” (“Hey, America, are you thinking what I’m thinking? You soon will be.”)
If you put a million Tweetie birds together in a cage, an occasional tweet is bound to be interesting. Some of the Top 10 Twitters recently:
o Memoir of the Day: “I start things, but I never” – D. Stahl
o At Ritual Coffee, the hand-crafted sign by the register now reads, “Please, no blogging in line.”
o “Internet, I’m in labor. Do something.”
But, even the most dedicated technophile can’t be omnipresent all the time, informing the world about their latest tooth-flossing or tuna sandwich lunch. That’s why MyCyberTwin was created. This new web-based software allows you to set up your own Virtual Clone. By answering a comprehensive series of questions about your views on subjects such as sex, politics and religion, you program your CyberTwin with as much of your personality and background information as you like, enabling it to act as a virtual public-relations agent when you’re not available. Once you’ve created a CyberTwin chatterbot, you can place it on your website or blog to converse with anyone who happens by. Is it you or is it CyberTwin? Only your webmaster knows for sure.
According to Technology Review, “MyCybertwin can be a bit slow, taking up to 10 seconds to ‘think’ before it responds to a visitor’s question.” Wow, that’s pretty good. Sometimes it takes me longer than that to even notice that someone is asking me a question. CyberTwin’s co-founder Liesl Capper notes, people are spending a lot of time creating online presences, whether it’s through MySpace, blogs, or “avatars” in virtual worlds like Second Life. “It may only be for an audience of 10 people, but it’s important to them, and it’s a taste of things to come. This way you can have your friends chat to you when you’re sleeping. It’s about engaging with people and answering their questions without having to go through a hundred e-mails.”
Evan Williams, the founder of Obvious, feels that Twitter is also primarily interesting as a way to communicate to small groups of friends. “It has the potential to be a really substantial part of how people keep in touch with each other.” I guess getting a tweet from a friend who’s “shopping for soy milk. Blue box or red …” might feel more substantial than going online to ask their CyberTwin what they like to eat for breakfast.
Staying constantly, instantly available can lead to its own perils. Eric Meyer, a 37-year-old Cleveland web consultant, had to rethink who to allow in his “friends” circle after experiencing a Twit-storm of 30-40 messages a day from one friend pondering what to have for dinner and commercials spotted on TV. “Who doesn’t have a friend like that, who shows up at a party and just won’t stop talking?”
When I consider this techno-groping towards a stream of consciousness connection among friends, I can’t help but think about James Joyce’s Ulysses, the first great stream of consciousness novel. Anyone who’s ever read it cannot forget Molly Bloom’s soliloquy and her description of Leopold Bloom’s proposal, “and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”
Although the entire novel takes place during one day, it took Joyce seven years to write Ulysses. Perhaps the first thing that pops into your head isn’t necessarily the thing that you want to broadcast to the world. As someone tweeted, “Noticing that Twitter gives one the illusion of writing without the actual burden of writing. All fluff – no stuff!” Even if you don’t have seven years, maybe it’s worth taking more than seven seconds to think about what you want to say.
Or maybe, 200,000 years after having learned how to speak, and 5,000 years after learning to write, mankind has reached a new stage in the evolution of communication, which will bring us a new truth. And, as Steven Colbert recently tweeted, “How many roads must a man walk down before he is run over by an eighteen-wheeler of truth?”