Classic Space Borg Cube, a Creative Commons licensed image by T.Oechsner
Reading articles like the latest from Time Magazine you get one impression: Resistance is futile.
Either you join the Twitter collective or you get assimilated by force.
Of course I’m referring to the fictional Star Trek universe I’m a big fan of since my early youth.
There a very aggressive and somewhat “communist” half humanoid half machine species called the Borg is a menace to both earth and humanity as a whole. The Borg communicate by a “hive mind”, they’re interconnected in real time with all other Borg drones. Now does that sound familiar?
In case it doesn’t let me cite a passage from the above mentioned Time piece:
‘…as millions of devotees have discovered, Twitter turns out to have unsuspected depth. In part this is because hearing about what your friends had for breakfast is actually more interesting than it sounds. The technology writer Clive Thompson calls this “ambient awareness”: by following these quick, abbreviated status reports from members of your extended social network, you get a strangely satisfying glimpse of their daily routines. We don’t think it at all moronic to start a phone call with a friend by asking how her day is going. Twitter gives you the same information without your even having to ask.’
and the article continues to state
“The social warmth of all those stray details shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
This is exactly what the hive mind and Twitter is about, a social sphere where there is no social interaction in reality. It’s a technical substitute, a way to conceal the fact that everybody tweeting at their computers or cell phones is alone the very minute they act socially in a purely virtual sphere.
The Borg feel disconnected and desperate when there is no link to the hive mind. Does Twitter make you feel like that already when you’re off line?
In a way Twitter is for socializing what porn is for sex. Twitter will always be an imperfect substitute for real interaction.
Like in Star Trek where the human resistance actually succeeded in stopping the Borg several times it’s the same with Twitter. It will change the media landscape but it won’t change our lives inasmuch as some pundits predict. We will still meet real people, marry real people, raise real children etc.
We need to lower our expectations. Twitter is no technological utopia or distopia. It won’t make the blind see again and heal cancer. We need to view Twitter realistically, as a tool, a business tool. Also this tool might be obsolete soon. Who knows, maybe in 2 or 3 years Twitter will be just another historic social site like Friendster is today.
So don’t think that Twitter is the biggest thing since Jesus. Keep calm and try to find some uses where it does make sense for you. Otherwise use a different tool, Yahoo Answers, StumbleUpon, Ning, whatever.
The day we find out that Twitter hasn’t lived up to its promise we will recommend something else. Don’t mix up the tool with the desired outcome. Not the hammer is what you want but the new dog house you have assembled using it.