April 21st, 2009
10:22 AM ET

Do only twits tweet?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TECH/ptech/04/14/twitter.study/art.twitter.gi.jpg]

Meghan Daum
The Chicago Tribune

What am I doing right now? If you must know, I'm staring at the computer screen, toggling between this column and my e-mail program, my online bank balance and photos of my dog. Oh wait, that was a few seconds ago. Now I'm hungry. Now I'm realizing I have no bread for toast. Now an hour has passed since I started this paragraph.

Do you find this interesting? Me neither. But the Age of Oversharing is upon us, and those of us who lack enthusiasm for minutiae are in a distinct minority. The current enabler-in-chief of this movement? Twitter, that suddenly ubiquitous "microblogging" system that lets users post updates of 140 characters or less that answer the question "what are you doing now?"

Most people still aren't quite sure what Twitter is—with only 14 million users, it's no Facebook yet—but it's insinuated itself into the popular lexicon so vigorously that just about everyone seems to have at least heard of it and its infinitive, "to tweet" (when you use Twitter, technically you are tweeting).

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Technology
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. AJ

    i like twitter. for no other reason than i can let my friends know about a change of plans or new meeting plans without having to text/call everyone, i just send one message on twitter and they know the deal. its not all abotu the celeb watching but it is entertaining in that way. you don't have to follow the celebs. and lets not be quick to judge ashton kutcher's getting 1m followers, remember, he and all who have contributed have done a good thing for malaria awareness and charity. and the people who joined didn't even have to pay a cent towards those donations.

    April 21, 2009 at 7:32 pm |
  2. Laura - Springfield, Va

    With all this "tweeting", is anyone having conversations anymore? A friend's son confessed that he communicates more through email, twitter, facebook, texting, ect. with his friends than face to face. Will all this technology effect future generation's interpersonal skills?

    April 21, 2009 at 7:11 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    I don't use Twitter much – if I want to communicate with someone its generally over 140 characters so I write an email. Tools like Twitter are what you make of them. I'm glad some have found a good use for Twitter – to me its just a big time waster.

    April 21, 2009 at 7:06 pm |
  4. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    I can spend two hours a day once I get home responding to email from friends and family. Facebook is another entity completely. I have no idea how people find time to Twitter. Have we forgotten what normal communication on the phone or face to face is like? Last night I argued with my Dad via email for two hours about him being po'ed about me taking my dream job and moving. Apparently parental separation anxiety is easier dealt with via the net. Augh. And Twittering is good because? After the verbal theatrics last night I'm ready to dump all electro babble.

    April 21, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  5. Heather,ca

    I still dont have a clue what Twitter is and the purpose. I have a blackberry and I have texting down. I signed up for facebook but dont really understand how that works either. What happened to calling people and talking on the phone. I guess instant communication and multitasking has taken over. How very ADD friendly.

    April 21, 2009 at 6:05 pm |
  6. Mari

    Our 20-something-'kids' live out of state, and tweeting is one way to state in touch.

    We 50-something's like it.

    April 21, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  7. GH

    To each their own, but I'd regard Twitter as one more annoying source of useless blabber. This is why I don't text - if someone wants to reach me they can leave a voicemail; it's faster - and rarely chat online anymore. Twitter is for twits; tweets are for birds - and may I say I'd rather hear their chirping than overhear someone's four-letter-word-laced cellphone conversation about what they're doing at that particular moment, whether it's chewing gum or having just come off the john.

    April 21, 2009 at 5:38 pm |
  8. Tracy Solomon

    I do tweet but I am not a constant twitterer. I have a Facebook as well. The whole idea of any of it is to use it as you will. I came across Twitter via CNN. I don't plan to tell people about my entire day due to the fact as uniteresting as it would be to me to hear abou theirs, I would think mine would be as much to them. I do think it is a good way to jump on and see what is going on.

    FYI: That is how I stumbled upon this article.

    I agree with the comment above, I wonder if Meghan "Follows" Jack Gray. Great Blogs! Great on Twitter!!

    And of course, there is always AC360, Anderson Cooper is always keeping everyone informed everywhere and every way.

    However, if you aren't a person that likes to be in the middle of multi tasking and communicating 24/7, it is understood and I do sympathize with you because I can't imagine how many times the words "Twitter" and "Facebook" are said on the daily news... I think it will just be said more and more until the new social media term comes along.

    April 21, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  9. Lisa in CA

    May I also ask - are we no longer capable of actually writing? Can we even put together a cohesive sentence with real words? We use anagrams, abbreviations, etc. and simple 1-line whatevers. Why don't we just e-mail? You have your distribution lists, etc. that you can hit "send" and they all get whatever it is you just sent.

    While I understand that twittering/IM'ing may have its uses, but have we not learned what instant gratification costs? Why can't we just slow down, relax, stop and smell the roses (or whatever your favorite aroma is) along the way? Why must everything be so, well, instant?

    April 21, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  10. BrennaJordan

    I don't twitter but I do receive tweets...including Anderson Cooper's. I highly doubt he would want to call 100,000 people to advise them of his tweets. That's the beauty of twitter. You find out things and get a little perspective on what's going on. Not that someone is 'eating a sandwich' – but just generalities or thoughts. You can limit your involvement – and I find it enlightening. It's interesting and only takes a few seconds. In fact, my 'TweetDeck' lets me read all of them whenever I want – if they don't come through to my phone. To each his own – but don't knock it if you don't know what it is capable of...

    April 21, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  11. dreamchasr96

    i'm brand new here on twittering. what am i doing? how am i doing? i think i might be too old for this stuff!!

    April 21, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  12. Lisa in CA

    Yes, only twits tweet - or those who have nothing better to do and need to feel they are the center of everyone else's universe. Seriously, I should care that you are hungry, or need to go to the bathroom, or whatever it is you need to tell the world about – why?
    If I want to know, let's meet for drinks during Happy Hour and talk then.

    April 21, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  13. Lu Sabal

    I'm so onboard with Michelle from Ontario. Our economy is going to hell in a handbasket and the best news out there is Ashton Kutcher, having a million followers.

    Kind of let's you know how the economy got the way it is.

    April 21, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  14. sn

    New communication technology is always faced with a deluge of moral revulsion, trite articles critical of early adopters by people who have never used it, and long polemics designed to prove the world spun more stably on its access before this technology existed.

    Telegraphs where met by hundreds of articles lamenting the rapid pace of the world. Home mail delivery was seen as an insidious waste of time. Radio ruined morals, television made us zombies killers each time Rob Petrie tripped over a piece of furniture, and e-mail destroyed the fabric of human society. Web pages are only used for porn, video on the web is destroying hollywood, and iPods made people into deaf joggers.

    Twitter is obviously just a new evil in a long line of evil that started with the first pointed grunts made by Australopithecus to announce her unhappiness with food gathering situation.

    Still, it gives underemployed writers a easy 1000 words, so declaring the latest communication techniques evil is probably good for society.

    April 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  15. gayle mccauley Malden,Mass.

    I think that only a few of my tweets have answered the question "What are you doing?' I happen to use in in a very different way.I have a bunch of facebook friends that I've connected with from the AC360 live blog.We have continued conversations in various inbox messages and groups that we have formed on facebook.We have had a few warnings about shutting down accounts etc. because of too many messages being sent too quickly etc.. etc..When messages from 10-15 people come at once and continue at a very quick pace,I guess it taxes facebooks bandwidth.So we have found that twitter,although limited to 140 characters per post,can handle the frequency and speed of the posts.We use it as a live chat room,anyone can join in or drop out when ever they want to .....It is a lot of fun : )

    April 21, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  16. Charm

    Twittering has taken self-absorption to a whole new level.

    April 21, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  17. Daniel Simpson

    I do like responding,,so many topics,, More people need to be thinkers of ways to inprove our lives,being involved reflects our own abilities to care about whats going on and how each of us can make a difference? ..However you communicate ,Do more of it..

    April 21, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  18. sustainable energy man

    I will be the first to !0 million followers.


    April 21, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  19. Stacy

    Meghan Daum is obviously not following Jack Gray.

    April 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  20. Isabel

    Dear Meghan,

    It may seem strange, but it is very cool to know what the friends (or just interesting people) are doing. In Tweeter, we report the life, travels, or what goes through your head.

    Two tips on Twitter: Do not be alarmed if you do not know who is following you. They do not bite. If threatening bite, BLOCK!

    And your followers are like a garden. Cultivate them. Be receptive and twitt a "please", a "thank you" and a "good morning"


    April 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  21. Joe

    Ironically, I found this article by following AC360 on Twitter. I find its sarcasm amusing but wholly uninformed. The whole point of Twitter is to follow what interests you, and others follow what interests them. If I find the inane ramblings of Ashton Kutcher or Wil Wheaton funny or entertaining, then I follow them until such time as they begin to bore me and then I simply "unfollow" them. If someone annoys me, I block them. If someone finds whatever I post of interest they can follow me, but I don't have to follow them back. Twitter does not for me replace interpersonal communication. And it's free, so I don't get the the comment that it's built by tech people who want our money by signing up for these services. I think the day Twitter tries to charge for the service will be its last day. More than likely any revenue they produce–they're currently not producing any–will be ad-generated, much like Google's. There was a time when I didn't get the point of blogging, and thought bloggers were simply bad writers. But clearly there are thousands of people who do. I get that Meghan finds all of this Twitter talk highly annoying, I just don't understand why. As a writer, I would think she'd be using Twitter like many writers do to direct people to her articles by posting links to them on Twitter. Or she could just let AC360 do it for her instead.

    April 21, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  22. Arachnae

    You overlook the value of twitter in informing masses of people about rapidly unfolding events – I suspect the next national or local emergency will see people using the service to update family/friends of their whereabouts, and authorities posting the latest info. it's already being used to mobilize around an issue – see @freeroxana.

    And newsflash – you don't HAVE to tell us what you're having for lunch; that's purely optional and we're really not interested anyway.

    April 21, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  23. Dee White

    I agree with you as well...Twittering just consumes us with more time being spent on ourselves. Who really cares what someone is doing unless it is for someone else or a cause. Let's face it..were falling here and people don't want to get away from there computers long enough to do something about what is going on is our country..I'm speaking for myself as well...but we have to stand up and show our goverment we aren't going to take this anymore. Banks getting bailed out with our money and charging us intrest on our own money. This whole system is just crazy. I think if everyone that's making under $100,000 a year should get $100,000 per family or house hold..At least that money would get back into the economy quicker. Yes jobs will create money but only the people with lots of money can come up with these new green ideas. So again the people on top are making all the rules and giving to the people that feed them...stop inslaving us..What american dream? Lets redefine that...Anyone want to help?

    April 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  24. GF, Los Angeles

    I find Facebook to be just as mindless as Twitter. I don't need a blow by blow account of what my friends are doing at every second. I think this oversharing is a way to brag about their life. We've lost our humbleness and the more we share through cyberspace – the more I feel we're losing our humanity of not meeting our friends face to face and "catching up".

    April 21, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  25. Chi Town

    Your life is so without meaning you spend your day's reading what someone else is doing.

    And we wonder why America is Obese... and only getting worse.

    Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc, etc... and only growing.

    Makes you wonder what teens will be doing with 90% of their time 5/10 years from now... and we thought TV was bad.

    April 21, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  26. Sally N.

    Is the computer and Twitter/Facebook/ etc. our Heroin of the day? The hours spent spilling our guts to strangers could, perhaps, be better spent.
    I, for one, need to ask myself how I can spend my time more effectively, more productively, more compassionately in today's crazy world.

    April 21, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  27. MarieAnne Sam - Alabang, Philippines

    I'm a new 'Twitterer'! I don't want to elaborate the reason why I signed up! *blushes*-but I love it!

    Anyways, those I 'follow' are far from where I am-so personal interaction is really minimal or nada! at all.

    And those few persona that follows me–well, one is my niece and my staff! Others I don't have relation with-some kind of a medium that keeps me informed! 🙂 LOL!!!*peace*

    Of course, twits cannot replace face to face human interaction but it can surely touch ground on what the other person, millions of miles away is doing!-the link is established; the gap is bridged-and these social netsites such as Twitter does it! 🙂


    April 21, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  28. Kristen - University Park, PA

    Melissa the same thing happened to me, lol. I so lost interest fast. Its not appealing to me to spend my time looking at random thoughts people have and sharing mine with others.

    April 21, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  29. Terry, TX

    Tried it...it was ridiculous...will never use it again.

    April 21, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  30. Presley

    I am on Twitter, therefore, I can write a valid opinion about whether or not it's anything at all.
    It is what it is. IM'ing glorified, whatever.
    Sure it started off uneventful then I hooked with a few bloggers from here, found out some other people I knew were on it and presto whammo, it ain't that bad, from my side of the fence at least.
    It makes chatting through AC360 easier, I can't get a comment posted during air time to save my life, so, we chat it up at Twitter.
    What I do find annoying is indignant pontificating about it's value and worth especially by those who have never used it or believed once they signed up it would instantly become some kind of entertainment.
    What does that say about one's expectations?
    Back to Twitter I go. Why? Do you really care? No, no you don't.

    Tweet Tweet!!!

    April 21, 2009 at 11:28 am |
  31. Jane

    People whose lives are empty and others who must be the center of attention are the only two types of people who "twitter" or "tweet" or whatever they call it. They jump on any bandwagon in order to convince themselves they are relevant when, in fact, they are useless or they wouldn't need something as stupid as Twitter to express themselves. They are to be pitied. They need more than a computer; they need therapy.

    April 21, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  32. Kelly

    I have found Twitter addicting. As you describe in your article I am usually doing several things at once with multiple windows up, often Twitter is one of those open windows. I am not sure you can really explain Twitter, and yes, perhaps I am a "twit". What I enjoy is the conversation with people you know and many you don't. Some of these conversations are rants, some are stupid, some are interesting and a lot of advertising and self promotion, I click here, click there, and alas, I am here...reading your article. I am currently unemployed for the first time in my adult life really, I am extremely focused on my job search, I network with job clubs and meet-up groups, I take classes to polish computer skills and learn new ones, I volunteer 2 afternoons a week for an agency that manages 6 homeless shelters, must mostly, I post for jobs and look for jobs, and observe and participate in the conversation on Twitter. I have decided it keeps me from going completely mad from the boredom of unemployment.

    April 21, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  33. Melissa

    Personally, I don't like twitter. I signed up for an account but got bored within an hour and haven't touched it since. That was over two months ago now. I doubt I'll use it again.

    April 21, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  34. Michelle D. Fonthill,Ontario

    Dear Megahn

    I completley agree with you on the twittering or tweets which the word itself is annoying .I couldn't care less to post the daily grind of mudane ramblilings.I don't understand 40 characters or less is that just words or what does that mean ?Can't people just commincate by word of mouth face to face or calling them personally .This has just been created bhy computer tech people who wnat our money by signing up for these services .The world's economy is crumbling people are losing thier jobs and this is all that's being talked to death about .Please get back to reality!

    Michelle D.

    April 21, 2009 at 10:58 am |