FYI: Twitter Will Never Catch On – Just Like The Internet Didn’t

If you go to Twitter first for news, post news to Twitter or retweet news you read on Twitter – you might be a “Twitter obsessive.” And even if you don’t consider yourself obsessed, you’re certainly not in the majority (of adults in the world) and you’re actually kind of cultish. A “Twitter true believer,” if you will.

And just so you know – you’re wasting your time because Twitter will NEVER catch on – just like the Internet didn’t. Or so says this article we’re about to pick over like a starved vulture.

We posted yesterday about a recent Pew Research study claiming the reaction folks have on Twitter (to politics) is not necessarily representative of overall public opinion.

You can pull what you want from any data, of course. We focused on there supposedly being more negative liberals on Twitter – and this post from CNN Money focused on . . . silliness.

Twitter for News? Not so much – is the headline that jumped out at me while sourcing stories this a.m. I thought it was satire. I was wrong. It was satire source material though.

To hear certain Twitter enthusiasts (or as many of them are otherwise known, Twitter obsessives) tell it, the microblogging platform represents the future of news. . . . [to Twitter True Believers, this means] the platform itself is becoming a vehicle not only for sharing links to news stories, but also a primary source of news—often reported by “citizen journalists,” which usually just means witnesses to events who share real-time (and unverified) information in 140-character squibs.

In neither sense, however, is Twitter likely to become a powerhouse news platform, though along with Facebook and LinkedIn it certainly can help spread news stories around.

He is entirely correct, of course. Twitter will NEVER be instrumental in breaking news or changing the world. It’s completely useless to anyone outside of those Twitter (spit) obsessives (spat).

I’m thinking the girl who started the #jan25 hashtag may disagree, as well as folks in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya – particularly those who relied on Twitter to connect with the outside world via speak-to-tweet technology. There are just endless examples of news breaking on Twitter and of ways Twitter helps the world communicate with an immediacy never realized before. And yes, being “unverified” is a drawback – that’s why tweeting responsibly is important – and so is using common sense and not believing everything you read the second you read it.

newly released study from the Pew Research Center shows just how tiny and unrepresentative the universe of Twitter users actually is. That might explain why following journalists on Twitter often makes some of us feel like intruders into a particularly insular, clubby, nerdy world.

According to Pew, just 13% of American adults ever use Twitter at all. And just 3% of adults ever tweet or retweet news stories.

The universe IS tiny – and nerdy. Good thing we have astronauts to expand that view and show us that maybe “nerdy” is okay. And focusing on the percentage of American adults on Twitter doesn’t give a full picture, does it? Twitter is the world’s fastest growing social platform for 2012 and unless the Internet remains static (which it won’t), Twitter will continue to grow as well.

But is it useful?

The utility of Twitter as a news platform is powerful, but narrow. Few people other than journalists and people working in a particular field (such as, say, finance) need to have a real-time stream of constantly updated news. Speed. brevity, and immediacy are the only real benefits to Twitter. When those benefits are required, they are very beneficial. Otherwise, they’re actually drawbacks. It’s simply easier, more comfortable, and more useful for most people to get their news from TV, the Web, or even newspapers.

It probably doesn’t help that so many journalists and other news-spreaders fill Twitter up with seemingly every thought and opinion that passes through their heads; insist on “live-tweeting” speeches, hearings, product introductions, etc.; and engage in flamewars with each other. What everyday news consumer wants to endure any of that?

In-deed! I’m sure the same was said about TV and radio back in the day as well. Newspapers were just fine to transmit news, why would anyone ever need to know things the same day they happened? Tomorrow is fine too! And now people want to know what’s happening every INSTANT just because they CAN? Weird, but yes – they do want to and will continue to want to. So yeah, Twitter IS catching on – like wildfire.

And what kind of news will you find on Twitter anyway? You’ll find the UK Supreme Court tweeting judgments and you’ll see police, firefighters and others either live-tweeting or just sharing safety info and updates on Twitter – and more are joining every day.

And when there’s an emergency or natural disaster, Twitter is often the only place available for folks to GET updates. And that’s all stuff you DO need in real-time, actually.

The study found that the views of Twitter users rarely track with those of the general public, at least on national political issues and events.

No, the Pew Research focused ONLY on national politics – that’s what the study was about. They compared Twitter reactions to survey results around eight specific events. Here they are:

The Twitter hating piece sums up:

It would seem that in some ways, Twitter pretty much lives up to its stereotype: It’s full of people, many of them kids, commenting on celebrity culture, sports, music, and reality TV, engaging in interpersonal drama, or sharing their own personal musings, mundane life events, and, sadly, racist or otherwise hateful nonsense.

None of which is to say that Twitter can’t be incredibly useful for people who do choose to use it to keep up with the news, or who belong to a community of interest. It most certainly can be that — it’s just that for most people, it isn’t, and likely won’t ever be.

Nope, wrong again. Twitter DOES have all of that, but it is what you make it. If you want to tweet what you eat to lose weight, have at it – or if you want to obsess over celebrities, that works too. And if you want to know what’s going on in the world as it happens – and sometimes before everyone else, Twitter is the place to be. And Google+ is a close second.

But if you WANT to use it for hateful things, it’s effective for those purposes too, unfortunately – and the consequences for that behavior are your own fault as well.

And I just have to point out how interesting it is that for someone who so strongly poo-poo’s Twitter, he shared the post on . . . Twitter and has two other Twitter accounts listed in his bio. Seems he’s wasting an awful lot of effort on something that will never catch on!

But I’m sure no one will read this anyway. Feel free to weigh in if you do. Till next time, true believers . . .

(Vulture image from Shutterstock)