Every time I start to wonder whether I might be missing out by not being on Twitter, something happens to reassure me that my original assessment of it as an essentially useless novelty, embraced by compulsive early adopters who are suckers for any new technology regardless of its value, wasn’t far wrong.
Today the reassurance came from an unlikely source: Kim Hill’s producer Mark Cubey, who has appeared regularly on Summer Report (the holiday substitute for Morning Report) to give us the benefit of his wisdom and insight on … actually, I’m not quite sure on what. You’d have to ask RNZ.
Anyway, there he was this morning, boasting about how many followers he’d acquired on Twitter and how he was, like, only 300 followers short of Morning Report’s total. (Wow. I’m not sure I’d want to admit on national radio that my self-esteem was related to the number of Twitter followers I had, but there you go.)
Cubey predicted that 2012 could be a “huge” year for Twitter and went on to talk about how the social networking service appealed to “technologically savvy”, “cutting edge” people (like himself, by obvious implication) who were “really on to it”, “up with the play” and liked being first with the news.
Then, as if to prove his argument beyond all doubt, Cubey pronounced triumphantly that he had heard about the death of the Wellington street identity known as Blanket Man on Twitter “before it was on the news”.
The Summer Report host didn’t think to ask Cubey what seemed a highly pertinent question – namely, how is the common good of humankind (or indeed anyone) advanced by hearing about the death of a tragic derelict five minutes, half an hour or even half a day before it was on a radio news bulletin or news website?
Cubey’s telling comment reflected a common preoccupation among Twitter evangelists: a peculiar, childlike desire to be first just for the sake of being first, regardless of the intrinsic importance of the information conveyed or the value of hearing it ahead of others. It seemed to confirm that Twitter is essentially a forum for vacuous chatter, rather like the chirping of birds after which it’s named.
All my prejudices having been reinforced, I remain a contented Twitter sceptic.