Dissecting USA Today article about Twitter


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I haven't done something like this in several years on my blog here, but this one article I read in the USA Today just begged to be investigated by a computer science student who uses and loves Twitter and who's supposed to be doing homework.

SAN FRANCISCO — Dave Magnusen has never used Twitter, yet it bugs him.

"It’s a form of communication, but it’s not very social," says Magnusen, 55, a database administrator in Durham, N.C. "You can’t ignore (Twitter), but it’s kind of sad how it’s replaced people talking."

That's right, I don't make dozens of international phone calls a day because I don't have the money or time, it's because Twitter makes me not want to talk! Glad we got that straightened out.

Tony Fuda feels the same way. The Niles, Ohio, native is particularly irked by tweets that insist on sharing the most mundane details of life.

“Do we really need to know that you just put your pants on, just brushed your teeth, just ordered a hamburger, just finished dinner, just walked out of the bathroom?” he says.

If he's not interested, why does he read them? Why are we also not hearing about how he finds certain magazines he doesn't have an interest in mundane?

Magnusen’s and Fuda’s gripes underscore a strong undercurrent of resentment — and incredulity — by non-Twitter users toward the social-media service used by tens of millions.

Just like popular fiction in the eyes of literary critics, if lots of people like it, it can't be good.

Earlier this month, Twitter bashers had another reason to send their tongues wagging: A new study concludes that 40% of tweets are “pointless babble.”

Pear Analytics categorized 811 out of 2,000 random tweets over two weeks as babble. It categorized 751 (38%) as conversational, 174 (9%) as moderately interesting and 117 (6%) as self-promotional. Spam accounted for only 4%, or 75, of the tweets.

So in other words, Twitter has a higher percentage of useful material than the Internet in general? Why is this being presented as a bad thing?

Callie Greenberg is not sweet on tweets. “I can’t stand it,” says Greenberg, 25, a medical-sales rep in Denver who is a loyal Facebook user. “Twitter is basically the same as updating your status on Facebook — only 20 times a day. It’s overuse, almost stalkerish. Get a life.”

The problem with using sweeping generalisations is most often they're complete nonsense. Twitter is not "basically the same"; you use Facebook to keep in contact with friends, you follow people on Twitter because you're interested in what they have to say.

If you "can't stand it" Callie, don't tell people who find it useful to "get a life" and don't use it. Very simple.

Many bemoan the loss of face-to-face communication among a generation of people glued to their smartphones, netbooks or websites.

All but half a dozen of the 270+ people I follow live overseas, and I'm sure if you talk to most other Twitter users they'd say the same, if you had bothered to while researching your story.

“It’s a look-at-me technology that seems to be more about vanity and competition than about information,” says Jason King, 32, of Maysville, Ga. He does not use Twitter or Facebook.

I use it to keep in touch with people I care about and who I'm interested in. If that's vanity and competition about information, then call me a vein competitor!

Bottom line folks: if you don't get Twitter or don't see how it could be useful to you, don't use it. Very simple.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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