Twitter vs. blogs

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Ezra Klein complains that congresspeople want to twitter rather than blog:

But this is the problem with the public sphere's quick embrace of Twitter. It's intimacy without communication. McCaskill doesn't actually say anything in 140 characters or less. The illusion of transparency comes because in everyday life, we only hear about the dinner plans of people we actually have a relationship with. What's useful about intimacy, however, isn't the exchange of trivia but the access to different perspectives. And I'd really like to hear her perspective! It would be rather nice if senators and congressmen routinely wrote posts explaining their thinking on major issues. A public service, even. Instead, they've all embraced Twitter.

It's not just McCaskill. It's McCain and Dodd and Hoekstra and Boehner and a half dozen more converts every day. And that's no accident. Twitter allows the benefits of blogs -- an authentic connection with your audience -- without exposing you to the dangers of actual, substantive engagement.

I think that's a fairly accurate assessment of Twitter. One the one hand, the Twitter message size limit really lowers the entry barrier to posting anything. It's just not that hard to write 140 characters about anything. On the other hand, because it's really hard to make any kind of sustained point in 140 characters, unless you're incredibly good with words if you want to say anything substantive (i.e., something other than "On my way to the airport") you're mostly limited to preaching to the converted, snark, one-liners, etc. After all, what else could you be expected to say in the space allotted? On the third hand, a lot of people's blogging was lifestyle updates anyway, and Twitter actually seems like a more suitable medium for that: if you want to blog about your new hat it's a lot easier if you don't feel like you have to write a review of it.

4 Comments

I don't think Klein is saying anything useful. It's the long-term effects of twittering for these people that will drive many of them to blog. Fact is, when people get a taste of twitter, they'll quickly become comfortable (or uncomfortable) with this kind of social media. I hypothesize that all it takes is that 140 byte (note that it's 140 *bytes* not chars) limit being reached a few times for congresscritters to start asking their staff about more expansive types of social media that let them let their hair down a bit more.

And, as you can guess, I don't give a crap about people complaining that something I tweet or blog isn't interesting or is too belly-button-lint for them. It's my blog and my tweet stream yo. (Although my biggest audience, AFAICT, is google, so maybe I've driven most real humans off.)

"third hand" -> "gripping hand" :-)

There's a certain dignity, I believe, in writing long, thoughtful blog posts that nobody reads because (I imagine) they lack the time and energy. Writing short, punchy twitters that nobody reads because they don't actually care what I have to say, would just be too humiliating.

I am glad that these congresscritters are providing a publicly-visible metric of how many of my dollars they are wasting.

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