As a Media Studies major with an emphasis on Digital Media, I was saddened to see an under-researched and needlessly offensive piece like Nick Hubbard’s “The Problem With Twitter” appear in The Student Life.
Hubbard is not unjustified in noting that Twitter is a problematic social networking service. Eric Etheridge of New York Times blog “The Opinionator” observed on April 29th that Twitter users are experiencing rapid burnout. After only a week and a half, Oprah is already bored with Twitter, and she’s not alone. The Neilson media ratings company estimates that more than 60% of Twitter users quit tweeting in under a month. After the first wave of full-blown Twittermania, it’s beginning to seem like people just don’t know what to do with the ability to constantly express themselves in 140 characters or less. Twitter’s apparent pointlessness has also emerged as major rile-factor for Twitter haters like Hubbard, who asserts that “Twitter is making America dumber, up to 140 characters at a time.”
However, Hubbard’s approach to the topic is problematic in a variety of ways: He’s prone to sweeping generalizations (Twitter users are “boring, talentless idiots”—that’s right, even the senators!) and facile insults: for example, targeting “teenage girls” on the Internet as a “waste of space,” or the fact that the piece originally appeared with the title “Twitter: the Jersey Shore of the Internet,” an utterly pointless low blow which TSL editors apparently saw fit to omit in the online version.
Hubbard resorts to these tactics because—despite the grand sentiment of the new, Jersey-friendly title—he can’t find a real “problem” with Twitter beyond a generic and oft-voiced critique that social networking technologies are lowering our cultural discourse. Which begs the question: are hastily-written screeds in college newspapers raising it?
Critics have been making informed and well-reasoned arguments against Twitter for years, well before the Oprahs of the world made it the latest techno-fad. But Hubbard seems to be responding more to its fad status than anything of substance about the service itself. Herein lies the problem with “The Problem With Twitter”: kneejerk hatred of new technology is no more productive or enlightened than kneejerk adoption. Hubbard’s heavy-handed, reactionary rhetoric only obfuscates the real issues around an emerging Web technology.
Rachel Smith PO ’11