Why Twitter isn't pointless babble

For all its weaknesses, Twitter is an interesting way to view a mosaic of what is in people's heads at any given moment.

Have you ever sat in a bar or a coffee shop, just watching what people do, examining the expressions on their faces, or just desperately trying to overhear the endearing nonsense that emerges from their mouths?

That's how I think of Twitter.

Except there is one small difference with this peculiar little microblogging site: you can control who is in the bar or the coffee shop.

Some extremely clever people at Pear Analytics declared last week that 40 percent of tweets are "pointless babble". However, might their analysis be, as the English enjoy saying, just a little pear-shaped?

Some people might view, say, reality television as pointless. Yet for others it reveals aspects of humanity that can enlighten far more than many a drama.

And the lovely thing about Twitter is that it is reality television without those pesky scriptwriters.

Imagine if you could choose who's in your bar every day? CC Dominic's Pics/Flickr

Because, while you are not the scriptwriter, you are certainly the producer. You choose the cast, you fire the cast when they're boring you, and budget is no problem whatsoever.

You want Shaq in your soap opera? Please do help yourself.

You want some obscure 15-year-old Irish blogger who has sworn off chocolate (and I think I am following one), then he is entirely at your disposal.

Of course, there are those who enjoy large crowds and follow thousands of people. They are probably people who enjoy blockbuster movies and have little interest in character development.

But there is something peculiarly mesmerizing about reading, say, Stephen Fry's torrid emotions on the subject of his beloved and largely terrible lower level soccer team, Norwich City.

On the other hand, sometimes strange people from out there in the world decide they will follow you.

You check who they are and think to yourself: "I wonder what the life of an Australian fisherman who is deeply into the NBA might be like". So you follow him and, in a way that is no more than staring at a painting at a gallery, you begin to discover.

Perhaps these people tweet about picking their noses, flowers for their beloveds, or sides in a fight. Perhaps in isolation, such things seem pointless.

But, as long as you follow a palatable number of people, even allegedly mundane actions bring, on a day-to-day basis, a certain flavor to your view of the world that day. Just like being out on the streets and observing.

Pointless babble? To a number-cruncher, perhaps. But when did number-crunchers ever tickle the soul?

 

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