"If you thought Facebook was banal, try Twitter," says arch techno-skeptic Margaret Wente. So why do we use the short-messaging network and how can we explain its meteoric growth? The Toronto Globe and Mail columnist/cultural anthropologist gives four possible critical explanations:
1) "Is it really hunger for community? Is it,as one Twittering friend suggested, a safe substitute for talking to
yourself, something that other people tend to find disturbing?"
2) "One more symptom of mass attention-deficit disorder – yet another excuse to distract ourselves from the dull or difficult tasks at hand?"
3) "Is it really fear of dying? Maybe Twittering is just another way (like getting and sending e-mail) to reassure ourselves that we exist: Ego tweeto, ergo sum."
4) "Maybe the drive to tweet is just the logical extension of our narcissistic age, in which nothing in the world could possibly be more fascinating (to us) than what we're having for lunch."
What is particularly interesting about the Wenteian critique is the way in which she throws the philosophical bucket against Twitter. By introducing four of the most profound critiques of industrial society -- the communitarian, the narcissistic, the existential and the Luddite-- as a way of critiquing Twitter, Wente is acknowledging its significance. Thus, in reality, she is arguing that Twitter-- love it or hate it -- is actually quite profound. I agree with the Wenteian position in many ways. But I respectfully suggest the substitution of a single word in her overall argument:
"If you thought Facebook was profound, try Twitter."