When Twitter Becomes Poetry

Following a series of twits about why twitter isn’t a good medium to have a thoughtful discussion, noting the need for a series of twits to make the point, a fascinating twit appeared.  It was:

Twitter is poetry to blogging’s novella. Of course it’s discussion. Elegantly obscure, but discussion nonetheless.

A brilliant analogy, but utterly false.  Worse yet, scarily conceived in a way that might draw one in by its superficial appeal (and it is superficially appealing), but promoting a notion that strikes fear in the mind of every thoughtful person.

Blogging is no novella.  Twitter is no poetry.  Cute twits do not make it a discussion, and adding the word “elegantly” before “obscure” doesn’t make it a meaningful phrase.

It’s not that twitter is not communication.  Of course it’s communication.  What it is not is a medium that permits complex communication, the transfer of fully conceived ideas in a viable fashion.  It could be used that way by making multiple twits, where sentences or paragraphs run on from twit to twit to twit, but nobody likes that.  It’s a violation of twitter etiquette to monopolize the twitter stream.  It’s just not the way to use twitter unless you’re determined to become a twitter pariah.

Twitter can be used to transmit poetry, as shown by David Giacalone, formerly of f/k/a  fame and now on twitter hiatus having decided that twitter isn’t worth the effort.  Twitter serves as a medium for David’s haiku just swell.

As to the obviousness that twitter is “discussion”, I don’t doubt the sincerity of the twitterer offering the idea, but the cognition behind it.  Is this what discussion has become in the age of text messages, emails and, well, twitter?  Is this Orwell’s nightmare on steroids?

With some regularity, I see twits that don’t make a whole lot of sense to me.  I see the same happening with others, who end up responding in a way that both demonstrates and furthers the confusion.  Sometimes it’s cleared up afterward.  Sometimes, there are hard feelings due to misunderstandings.  And these are twits of little consequence, more in the nature of twitticisms than ideas. 

I see messages sent that produce assumptive understandings, which may or may not bear any reflection of the intended meaning.  This could be the result of a tendency to jump to baseless conclusions, or the by-product of it being too difficult to find out what some “elegantly obscure” twit means.  It’s much easier to just assume.

If the trend is to believe that 140 characters is sufficient to engage in a discussion, it forces the question of what number will be insufficient. 79?  34?  Will a single character be called a discussion in the future?

It could just be me, my inability to express my thoughts within the confines of a twit.  Maybe I’m too undisciplined to make it work.  Maybe I’m too old to accept the limitations twitter imposes.  Or maybe I just can’t accept the notion that ideas can be adequately conveyed in 140 characters or less such that twitter can be deemed adequate to hold a discussion. Or maybe the problem isn’t with me at all.

If the future of discussion, however, is dependent on the ability to engage on twitter, I fear that Orwell was dead wrong.  It’s not the government that will impose newspeak on us to preclude our transmission of subversive ideas.  We will do it to ourselves.

4 comments on “When Twitter Becomes Poetry

  1. ExPat ExLawyer

    I just got on Twitter about a month ago. It in no way is a discussion medium. I like it as an instrument to pass along hot news, good online articles, and my own blog posts. I also like it as a collection basket for news items from various folks that I follow.

    I’m still learning the basics. I was surprised I like Twitter so much. Never expected to be able to write my name in 140 characters. I view it as sending a signal flare of sorts, not part of a discussion.

  2. Kevin Chan

    Complex communication is to make a point.
    140 characters can contain a syllogism, and therefore make a point.
    140 characters can contain complex communication.

    … or actually not since that argument required 160 characters apparently.

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