Like Old Man Stewart, I am a Twitter skeptic, enamored of the cleverness certain writers display via their feeds, but doubtful that the 140 character social networking utility merits the media attention it is garnering, the insistence of so many new media consultants that their clients need to Tweet, and financial valuations I can hardly fathom. Perhaps one day its owners are going to be drunk on Johnnie Walker Gold, their yacht cruising around the Mediterranean, gloating via tiny urls that people like me were wrong, but I think it’s more likely that they’ll look back on Facebook’s $500 million offer as a foolish proposition to have turned down.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown is right, I think, to call Twitter the Second Life of 2009. But I’d like to focus on its similarities to MySpace. Do you remember the early days of that site? It helped its users to connect to one another more effortlessly than they’d ever experienced before — so easily, in fact, that soon one’s MySpace “friends” came to include people who thought you looked cute in your profile picture, and bands whose free show you almost went to but didn’t, and attractive looking women who said they liked your profile picture but turned out to be trolls from some Online porn site, until you decided that MySpace made it too easy to connect with people, and you switched to Facebook, which at least organized itself according to people with whom you’d attended high school or college (which is to say, the semi-exclusive social networks you were already part of).
In Washington DC, many of my friends use Twitter to say that they’re going to be grabbing a drink at such and such bar after work, or that they’ll be on a panel at such and such think tank. I predict that within a year or two, either the wider Twitter frenzy will die down, or else all these people will switch to a Twitter replacement that is more exclusive, or at least provides a better way to separate “Tweets” one actually wants to get from “Tweets” one doesn’t. At that point, Twitter will look a lot like MySpace does today — it’ll be populated mostly by people who would use a more exclusive platform to raise their public profile or sell their product or whatever, if only there were another platform willing to grant them access to an audience.