Seth Finkelstein wrote a piece in the UK Guardian decrying Twitter as a system that exists simply for the purpose of .. how did he put it? Oh yes: facilitating the “pathologies of celebrity,” his five-dollar term for narcissism.
He spends eleven paragraphs talking about how horrible it is when people talk about themselves and then how some people get popular from it, and then how some other people make money. That wasn’t enough ranting to get it out of his system (or as we put it in CobWEBs this evening, that rant didn’t Gillmor all the crap from his innards).
He also posted over at his personal blog, Infothought, and lamented what a mistake it was to ever inject personality into his blog:
I suspect some people are going to miss the point of this column, and tell me that, golly gee, I can chat with friends. I know that. Really. I’m well into a third decade of being on the Net (I went to MIT, I was on the Net more way before it reached the general population), and I know all about text chat. I don’t want to use Twitter to chat.
I also don’t want to broadcast or narrowcast my life’s trivia. Encouraging exhibitionism is part of what I meant by “pathologies of celebrity”. I made a deliberate, strategic choice to put “personal voice” into my blog, and in retrospect that was, overall, a pretty bad decision.
What’s left is the rat race of trying to get followers for one’s micropunditry and links. No. Not again. Not another grind of a few BigHeads on top all group-grooming each other, while everyone else is practically unheard. Not again, not so I can be monetized by another social/data-mining start-up.
Well, gee, here’s an idea – if you don’t want to engage people, you don’t want to reveal anything real about yourself, and you hate everyone else for climbing the social ladder to their own benefit – be anti-social on your own time.
I mean, seriously, we get it. If your editorials reflect your true feelings, you’re an anti-social geek (with a dash of class-envy) from MIT that knows more than everyone else and hates talking to everyone. Good for you. That didn’t require two blog postings and sixteen paragraphs total. I just summed it up in one (admittedly run-on) sentence.
That ain’t news – it’s just a bit of your personality on display for everyone (which, incidentally, goes against one of your primary objections with blogging and Twittering).
As I re-read what I wrote, I can see how one might get the impression that I’m pretty down on Seth Finkelstein – I don’t have any personal quibbles with the guy, and despite his alleged quirks, he’s undoubtedly a very deep thinker and eloquent writer. I just think that in this instance, he’s transferring quite a bit of emotion to the technology and culture surround social media.
For what it’s worth, though, Seth’s view of Twitter is pretty myopic, and in Twitter as in life, if you find yourself hating everything and everyone, you can change one of two things to remedy it: change yourself, or change everything and everyone one else.
As Seth himself said in an interview with Harvard’s Greplaw:
There’s nothing wrong with keeping an online diary which is read by friends and family. Just like there’s nothing wrong with playing frequent poker games. You don’t have to be a professional, or make a living at it, to enjoy it and find it worthwhile.
That is, when it comes down to it, what most people use social media tools for, be it MySpace, Twitter or blogging. Seth sees the world in shades of Winer, Lessig, and Wales. The much wider world isn’t concerned with the “A-List” rat race, and thus his railings against Twitter fall completely flat.