Has Twitter become the Fail Whale?

posted at 9:01 am on January 30, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

When I saw Matt Lewis’ column, “Why I Hate Twitter,” in my e-mail, it gave me the first good reason to watch Twitter reaction to anything since the election.  Matt issues a cri de coeur over the ubiquity of the social-media channel, and how its universal reach has demolished its value as a medium of communication and conversation:

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment it happened — but at some point, Twitter became a dark place.

It’s a lot like the transformation of the 1960s. It started out being about free love, sharing ideas, and changing the world, but somehow we ended up being more about Altamont and Charles Manson.

Somewhere along the line, our optimism faded.

Once everyone was on Twitter, everyone’s problems were on Twitter. The early adopters might have been tech-utopians, but the succeeding waves were angry cynics and partisan cranks who used the technology to make the world even louder and worse than it was before Twitter.

Compounding the problem is that — unlike everyone else — if you work in journalism, you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. Being on Twitter is now part of the job, meaning that you can’t not be on Twitter. What was once an inspiring place that gave you a competitive advantage became a prison.

I don’t think my experiences were as intense on the ends of the spectrum as Matt’s, but I do have a sense of his experience.  The difference for me, as opposed to many of my colleagues and friends, is in how I approached Twitter.  I see it more as a water cooler experience rather than an alternative medium for argument and debate.  Yes, I tweet links to my posts, but now the Hot Air admin site does that automatically, so even that need has disappeared.  I mainly use it for personal connections to friends and readers, touching on politics but not as a means for conducting debates.

Perhaps that has kept Twitter from feeling as much like a prison to me, but it has still become increasingly burdensome and less fun than it was. It’s almost impossible to have an intelligent well-informed discussion in 140 characters on nearly any topic of worth.  The 140-character limitation results in more regurgitate bumper-sticker slogans or snarky asides than enlightenment.  Of course, that’s true of many blogs, Facebook updates, and media outlets even without character limits.  In those venues, though, a reader has to search out the inanity; on Twitter, it gets delivered to you automatically, unendingly, and in rapid succession.

I never thought Twitter was Heaven, and I don’t think it’s Hell or the Hotel California.  I don’t have a problem with checking out and leaving for long stretches, but I do enjoy interacting with my friends at the virtual water cooler.  The solution is probably to recast expectations about social-media channels in general and learn to ignore the chaff for the wheat.  In fact, those are good lessons for just about every area of life.


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Don’t touch Twitter.

Nor FB.

Shy Guy on January 30, 2013 at 9:05 AM

I was a late adopter–like last week–and it’s over already???

vityas on January 30, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Does Jen Rubin II column include, I also use Twitter to promote my articles attacking fellow conservatives?

HerneTheHunter on January 30, 2013 at 9:06 AM

It’s a lot like the transformation of the 1960s. It started out being about free love, sharing ideas, and changing the world, but somehow we ended up being more about Altamont and Charles Manson.

And somewhere in the middle are idiots who think they need to share they just got a triple foam latte at Starbucks….Yum!

Happy Nomad on January 30, 2013 at 9:07 AM

hmmm. i’ll follow you, ed!

Steven McGregor on January 30, 2013 at 9:07 AM

I was a late adopter–like last week–and it’s over already???

vityas on January 30, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Yep. You killed Twitter.

Happy Nomad on January 30, 2013 at 9:07 AM

My Hot Air addiction leaves me no time for Twitter or Pinterest.

Fallon on January 30, 2013 at 9:09 AM

I was a late adopter–like last week–and it’s over already???

vityas on January 30, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Yep. You killed Twitter.

Happy Nomad on January 30, 2013 at 9:07 AM

If so, give him a medal!

ElectricPhase on January 30, 2013 at 9:10 AM

Twitter channels the dark side of the Force within you. Its like cigs. Very hard to break the habit. Stay away.

tommy71 on January 30, 2013 at 9:12 AM

I’m not a twit, therefore I don’t tweet.

Can’t see a use for it, honestly. Just something else to clutter up the world and waste bandwidth.

TKindred on January 30, 2013 at 9:13 AM

Twitter is generally just a faster way to prove you are an idiot!

can_con on January 30, 2013 at 9:16 AM

I read Twitchy so I don’t have to do Twitter. That’s enough for me. Some of the comments…….Twitter really shows the dark side of people.

conservative pilgrim on January 30, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Heh! I have outlived twitter and can say, with absolute certainty, that I never twatted, twattered, twittered, have twatted, will twitter, want to twitter, tweet, twit, or any other conjugation thereof…….

now, next up. facebook—a haven for teenagers and pedophiles…..and i hear all the teenagers are leaving./

ted c on January 30, 2013 at 9:17 AM

It’s a lot like the transformation of the 1960s. It started out being about free love, sharing ideas, and changing the world, but somehow we ended up being more about Altamont and Charles Manson.

Tearing down society and ignoring customs and laws ALWAYS ends up being more about the Charlie Manson’s. And love ain’t free.

Flange on January 30, 2013 at 9:22 AM

It’s a Matt Lewis little snit-rant. Who cares what he thinks? I’m not even sure why this article is here on HA.

jwehman on January 30, 2013 at 9:25 AM

reminds me of the song, “Video killed the radio star”–the first video that played on MTV back in the day.

Advances in techology renders previous advances in technology less important or obsolete altogether. I would’ve put this comment in a letter and mailed it to Ed but I hear the price of stamps just went up as, you know, the high demand for postal service has increased in recent years……./

ted c on January 30, 2013 at 9:29 AM

I’ve got it! The USPS should just take over them twitter tubes, nationalize them, unionize the twitterverse workforces, demand fair pay for fair twitters, charge 78cents per twitter and ride this baby for the next 200 years…..

Twitter would be saved!!!! or somethin….

ted c on January 30, 2013 at 9:33 AM

I have a twitter that I used once, then about 1,000 people started demanding I follow them and I haven’t been back since.

Bishop on January 30, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Heh! I have outlived twitter and can say, with absolute certainty, that I never twatted, twattered, twittered, have twatted, will twitter, want to twitter, tweet, twit, or any other conjugation thereof…….

now, next up. facebook—a haven for teenagers and pedophiles…..and i hear all the teenagers are leaving./

ted c on January 30, 2013 at 9:17 AM

It’s a part of evolution. Evolve or die like the dinosaurs. Kodak didn’t learn that lesson (why would anybody be more interested in digital images when film is so much better). Research in Motion is trying to regain footing in a market it once dominated because it stuck to it’s product while the competition rolled out products with apps. Twitter, Facebook, print newspapers, personal snail mail….. all are going to be archaic memories within a decade.

Happy Nomad on January 30, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Never got into Twitter or Facebook. These blogs are enough of a time sink, I don’t need another excuse to be glued to a screen.

AZfederalist on January 30, 2013 at 9:34 AM

If we issue books of commemorative twitters, like stamps, maybe we could help twitter survive….. for the children, maybe??/

ted c on January 30, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Some of us saw Twitter right away for what it was — another dumbing down of Americans.

AngusMc on January 30, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Fine. “Hell is other people Twitter users.” — Garcin

Meanwhile, I’m very selective about whom I follow on Twitter and am (therefore?) very pleased with it thus far.

apostic on January 30, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Aside from the monumental volume of HUR DUR DUR DUR DUR that exists on Twitter, I do find it useful for about the same reason as DrudgeReport — lots of links to news stories from my favorite political pundits.

Jeddite on January 30, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Some of us saw Twitter right away for what it was — another dumbing down of Americans.

AngusMc on January 30, 2013 at 9:34 AM

No, Americans were pretty dumb pre-Twitter. A fact proven by how one can look pretty stupid even with a limit of 140 characters.

Happy Nomad on January 30, 2013 at 9:37 AM

I do find it useful for about the same reason as DrudgeReport — lots of links to news stories from my favorite political pundits.

Jeddite on January 30, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Tweeet! Personal foul. Using a social media outlet as a tool. Don’t you understand that Twitter was designed to that you could find out what Honey Boo Boo or one of the Kardashians is doing at any given minute. How dare you! ;0

Happy Nomad on January 30, 2013 at 9:40 AM

I don’t do the Twit thing, but it seems akin to playing Russian Roulette with a pistol in a hip holster: It can be fun and exciting to pull the trigger, but eventually you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot.

Galtian on January 30, 2013 at 9:41 AM

When I saw Matt Lewis’ column, “Why I Hate Twitter,
===================================================

I get about 80 percent of my info from News twitter linkys,
as the stories break,there tweeted,then hits the news websites!

canopfor on January 30, 2013 at 9:45 AM

canopfor on January 30, 2013 at 9:45 AM

It’s OK Canopfor, we all know you follow Justin Bieber. The news links are just a cover!

can_con on January 30, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Imagine if there was a continuous feed of YouTube comments for a video.

Now remove the video.

You now have Twitter.

Nethicus on January 30, 2013 at 9:54 AM

I won’t follow you…and I don’t like you.

Tru2my2 on January 30, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Jeddite on January 30, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Yep, that and keeping up with family and close friends.

d1carter on January 30, 2013 at 9:57 AM

I usually keep twitter off. If something newsworthy is going on, I’ll turn it on. Just to much noise to signal these days.

evilned on January 30, 2013 at 9:58 AM

I need some conservative backup on Google+

That place is the den of liberalism! I got just crucified on #GunAppreciateDay

Defenestratus on January 30, 2013 at 9:59 AM

I skipped twitter. I’m waiting for the next big thing.

CJ on January 30, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Maybe the reason that Matt Lewis has had a bad Twitter experience is because the quality of his columns is so bad. People use Twitter to address things that bother them and Lewis’ clumns can sometimes be really bothersome.

I use Twitter and I like Twitter. I don’t follow many people (168) and not a lot of people follow me. Over time, I feel like I have assembled a group of people I follow who I can depend on to give me the information that I want to see. Some people follow thousands of people. I don’t understand that. I can barely keep up with the 168 I do follow. I can’t imaging what it would be like if I followed ten times more than that.

When I see people complain about Twitter, my first thought is that it’s their own fault. You decide who to follow and you can decide who to block. If mentions bother you, you don’t have to read them. Mentions from those who you don’t follow don’t even show up on your Twitter Time Line. You have to click on “connect” to see them. If you use Tweetdeck, it’s probably different, but you still have the power to manage what you read and who reads what you Tweet.

Some people seem to want lots of followers but then they complain with what someone says about them on Twitter. You can’t have it both ways.

NoNails on January 30, 2013 at 10:06 AM

I don’t do the Twit thing, but it seems akin to playing Russian Roulette with a pistol in a hip holster: It can be fun and exciting to pull the trigger, but eventually you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot.

Galtian on January 30, 2013 at 9:41 AM

But then at least you’d have something to tweet about…… OMG! Just shot myself in the foot. That’s going to leave a mark. LOL!

Happy Nomad on January 30, 2013 at 10:06 AM

The only thing I find useful about Twitter is the opportunity to occasionally interact with well known bloggers and journalists – those who actually read and answer their tweets. I have started a pretty good conversation with a local reporter in my area who admits that he doesn’t know many conservatives and wants to understand ouor POV better.

If you are into things besides politics, Twitter can be a lot of fun. Many sports and entertainment figures are on it and they do answer their tweets. It’s a good way to get the latest news on your favorite teams, upcoming shows and movies, even tour dates of your favorite bands.

The political side of it is a train wreck though. The hacks and paranoids and trolls have taken it over.

rockmom on January 30, 2013 at 10:07 AM

A point of general principle: Matt Lewis is an idiot.

I don’t use twitter so have no observations about it.

rrpjr on January 30, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Forget twitter, I’m waiting for CB radio to make a big come back. Party line paradise good buddy.

tommyboy on January 30, 2013 at 10:09 AM

You can’t put the genie back in the bottle, boyo. Either ride the tiger or be eaten by it, I guess.

Aeschylus1 on January 30, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Twitter became a “dark place” when it became a place for folks to tell the universe “Oooh. They have a new flavor at Starbucks!” and “I’m going to the bathroom now.” Which was pretty much right away. I have no desire to tell the world what I am doing moment to moment, or to just pour forth my logorrhea, and even less inclination to read it from others. “Interconnectedness” ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

GWB on January 30, 2013 at 10:28 AM

Twitter is just the latest iteration of old technology. Before Twitter there was ICQ and IM. Slow pokes who didn’t catch the ICQ bug caught the IM bug or eventually the Twitter bug. It is and always was just a passing tech fad.

SWalker on January 30, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Twitter is okay. And conservatives actually are getting pretty well organized on it. It isn’t mean to be for huge insights, and every means of communication is going to include bumper sticker slogans and base trolling.

It can be as fun or as heavy as you wish. Don’t be political and don’t follow political stuff, and it won’t get that serious. Of course, if you’re on here, you’re probably inherently political and will inevitably go there on Twitter too. It’s your own fault though. You just care too much about the future of your poor beleaguered country. I know I started on there to follow my favorite musical artist and my favorite Nascar driver. I had no desire to get political with it. Now my follows include Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, David Limbaugh (great following BTW, everybody should include him), Michelle Malkin, Conservative Animal, and our own JPeterman (also an good one to follow, very diligent at it)… and I only follow a couple dozen people.

Yet, of all of the evils of our generation, Twitter is the least of them. It’s Facebook on which we need to maintain our ire. It’s Facebook on which we’re the product for sale, our own names and lives exposed as we perform self-surveillance for the benefit of whomever wants it as a price for remaining in contact with past friends and acquaintances without having to put forth much of an effort. I walked away from there, and despite being harder to contact, haven’t missed it one bit.

Gingotts on January 30, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Not on Twitter, Matt.

Nor do I have any inclination to be there in the future.

dissent555 on January 30, 2013 at 10:41 AM

Getting a Malkin beat down on Twitter, like Lewis did, is bound to take you to a dark place.

myrenovations on January 30, 2013 at 10:46 AM

I follow tech sites & people and Alton Brown, Weird Al and Steve Martin.

Twitter is what you make it. Mine is fun.

29Victor on January 30, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Twitter is just the latest iteration of old technology. Before Twitter there was ICQ and IM. Slow pokes who didn’t catch the ICQ bug caught the IM bug or eventually the Twitter bug. It is and always was just a passing tech fad.

SWalker on January 30, 2013 at 10:33 AM

ICQ! Heh.

I tried to install that recently (yes, it’s still around, I believe it’s been bought and sold several times) but the magic was gone :(

29Victor on January 30, 2013 at 11:07 AM

ICQ? Hell, even AIM has been dead for like 5 years now.

Though I suppose ICQ is still of use if you’re interested in being spied on by the Russian government.

Gingotts on January 30, 2013 at 11:13 AM

I have to agree with you Ed. Twitter is no longer (or perhaps never was) the place for healthy debate.

On the other hand, it can be an enjoyable way to connect with friends, and I certainly enjoy interacting with you on twitter. As Victor says, it is what you make it, but I would advise anyone jumping in not to take the medium too seriously.

JusDreamin on January 30, 2013 at 11:16 AM

I mainly use it for personal connections to friends and readers, touching on politics but not as a means for conducting debates.

Describes Hot Air for me.

eyesky on January 30, 2013 at 11:20 AM

What ED means is that since it’s no longer only brainless Liberals on twitter it isn’t fun anymore because they get called on their lies.

I LOVE IT.

SgtRed on January 30, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Really, my ability to leverage my Twitter feed to find story ideas — and to drive up pageviews by tweeting out links — helped me survive and thrive.

Until more people joined the game.Eventually you are competing with the machine. As they say in Vegas, the machine never gets tired

The vision of Twitter — and remember, I was an evangelist for it — was the notion that we could share information and ideas in a civil manner.

Where did he grow up

It can be fun and exciting to pull the trigger, but eventually you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot.
Galtian on January 30, 2013 at 9:41 AM

and stir up the troll’s nest

It’s Facebook on which we’re the product for sale, our own names and lives exposed as we perform self-surveillance for the benefit of whomever wants it as a price for remaining in contact with past friends and acquaintances without having to put forth much of an effort
Gingotts on January 30, 2013 at 10:35 AM

I have noticed online news sites want comments posted in Facebook, supposedly to maintain ‘civility’ but mainly to track enemies

The better to track you, my dear, said the big bad wolf

The best part is electronic Paul Revere. Of course, anything so useful becomes fishing grounds for the bad guys

If you don’t twitter you lose the low information slugs, so twitter forces you to spend time placating the beast. It is the dog who owns you

entagor on January 30, 2013 at 11:28 AM

canopfor on January 30, 2013 at 9:45 AM

It’s OK Canopfor, we all know you follow Justin Bieber. The news links are just a cover!

can_con on January 30, 2013 at 9:53 AM

can_con:Lol,gawd,I can’t stand that kid!:)

canopfor on January 30, 2013 at 11:32 AM

To use something with such a silly name as “Twitter” and to leave “tweets“?

Lindsay Lohan might have invented it.

profitsbeard on January 30, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Who invented the Fail Whale?

profitsbeard on January 30, 2013 at 11:51 AM

I believe Jonah Goldberg once said, “Facebook is the Devil’s urinal!”

I feel the same way about Twitter. I had a Twitter account for about 1 year, used it very infrequently and then deleted it. Not having posted much to it, I never got into a Twitter smack-down with anyone. But from what I see, it’s nothing more than a promotional channel for Hollywood nitwits and a constant stream of Jerry Springer content from the rest. I’ve got enough things to do in life without becoming hooked on other people’s problems…..

….so says the dude as he types uselessly away in a message board wasteland…..

powerpickle on January 30, 2013 at 12:01 PM

I tried twitter for a couple of months years ago and found no value to it, so have not used it since.

JeffinSac on January 30, 2013 at 12:19 PM

What Matt Lewis means is that he can’t get away from conservative minded tweets who call him out incessantly when he writes something stupid or liberally-biased (BIRM).

GISAP on January 30, 2013 at 12:51 PM

This…

What Matt Lewis means is that he can’t get away from conservative minded tweets who call him out incessantly when he writes something stupid or liberally-biased (BIRM).

Lewis is dead to me and after he attacked Michelle Malkin, I’m surprised he isn’t dead to the HotAir staff, too.

Warner Todd Huston on January 30, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Twitter is generally just a faster way to prove you are an idiot!

can_con on January 30, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Considering Twitter’s broader audience, no thank you.

Too many already hold a low opinion of me.

socalcon on January 30, 2013 at 2:41 PM

@iowahawkblog. No further justification for twitter is needed. And not a 1/2 in sight.

wolfsDad on January 30, 2013 at 2:56 PM

The dictionary tells you all you need to know about Twitter:

twit
/twit/
Noun
A silly or foolish person.
A state of nervous excitement: “we’re in a twit about your visit”.
Verb
Tease or taunt (someone), esp. in a good-humored way.
Synonyms
noun. reproach – rebuke – reproof
verb. taunt – reproach – reprove – reprehend – rebuke – upbraid

(That’s why you’ll NEVER find me there)

landlines on January 30, 2013 at 6:18 PM