Twitter caters to our “me-first” instant gratification culture by providing an outlet for mundane updates written by illiterate narcissists.
I’m guessing that opening sentence will get a reaction out of some of you. Those of you who hate Twitter (like I do) probably saw it and nodded in agreement. Those of you who are actually fans of the social networking site probably immediately felt the urge to reply to this post with an angry (and, most likely, poorly-written) comment. Either way, using exactly 140 characters, I was hopefully able to generate an emotional response.
And while I can’t stand the social networking site, I recognize that the best Twitter users are the ones who can do just that – actually grab your attention and say something meaningful with a limited number of characters. Unfortunately, those fascinating posts are lost in a sea of pointless updates about what every other Twitter user had for lunch that particular day and how much they all hate their jobs/significant others/lives/insert other irrelevant shit here.
The simple fact is that most people simply aren’t interesting enough to warrant 24/7 updates. Most people go to work in the morning, come home at night, watch some TV, surf the Internet, then go to bed so they can do it all over again the next day. Even celebrities on Twitter run out of things to say and end up posting dull updates (which Conan O’Brien has been having a field day mocking on his “Twitter Tracker” feature on The Tonight Show).
But occasionally people do end up generating genuinely compelling content on the site. Soldiers in Iraq can use Twitter to tell their stories without a media filter. Reporters can give instant updates on news as it breaks, instead of making readers wait to see a finished article later in the day. Athletes can offer real-time updates on a game while it’s happening; giving fans an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at their favorite players and teams.
All of those compelling things can happen on Twitter, but not for long. The Pentagon, the Marines, ESPN and the NFL are all either implementing or considering bans on Twitter.
A spokesman for the Pentagon revealed yesterday that the policy concerning military personnel’s access to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook is currently being reviewed. The Marines have already blocked access to these sites on Marine Corps computers for security purposes. According to the Marines: “These Internet sites in general are a proven haven for malicious actors and content – and are particularly high risk due to information exposure, user-generated content and targeting by adversaries.” The Department of Defense is expected to reach a final decision on the military’s use of social networking sites by the end of September.
ESPN basketball analyst Ric Bucher broke the news on his Twitter account yesterday that the company issued a memo prohibiting employees from “tweeting info unless it serves ESPN.” Reportedly, the concern is that if ESPN writers break stories on their Twitter accounts, people will begin following those feeds instead of going to the “worldwide leader in sports” for the full story. So employees can continue to write mundane posts about their everyday lives, but anything sports related is prohibited (unless it’s a link to their ESPN content).
As for the NFL, the league is currently working on a policy regarding the use of Twitter. The league already bans players, coaches and other personnel from using cell phones, computers or PDAs during games, so the new policy would apply to using sites like Twitter on the day of the game (before or after they get to the stadium).
While waiting for word from the league, some teams have already created their own policies. At the start of training camp this year, the Green Bay Packers told players they would be fined if they sent text messages of Twitter updates during team meetings or coaching sessions. Coach Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins outright banned all of his players from using Twitter.
Of course, one brave soul has decided he is going to fight the man and will continue to use Twitter whether the league wants him to or not. And that man is the soft-spoken, media-shy Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco.
“There’s a lot of things they don’t want me to do,” Ochocinco said. “I do it anyway. They know that. I don’t know why they even fussing about it.
“When I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it, regardless of what they say,” he said.
Chad, of course, was referring to his promise to use Twitter during games this season. So even though brave souls like Ochocinco will continue to fight the man, I feel like more companies will follow suit and ban their employees from using Twitter. It’s too easy to leak out sensitive information, so any company doing anything remotely fascinating will most likely ban their employees from using Twitter in an effort to protect their secrets.
Which brings me back to my original point – most of us aren’t interesting enough to warrant having Twitter accounts because we don’t have anything to say. Unfortunately, if things continue the way they’re going, those who do have something worth saying won’t be allowed to.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go post this column as my next 35 updates on Twitter. Once I finish that, it’ll be time to update the world on what I had for breakfast. (Here’s a hint: it rhymes with Moco Muffs.)
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.