This is the first post in a new weekly series that I’ve titled “Serious, time with Todd.” Not going for funny, or even cute. Just laying down thoughts that have been marinating for so long the meat has begun to rot. So enjoy, or piss off. Thanks for your time either way. But for those who enjoy, high five.
Twitter is a tool.
We’ve all heard this before on numerous occasions, and I’m sure we’re all in agreement. It’s a tool. We pick it up, hammer a few nails, put it down and move on to the next project.
Well, today, I call bullshit.
I don’t buy it. I’ve used tools. Some more proficiently than others, but never has a tool changed the way I think, the way I communicate, the way I feel about people. A tool has never created new friends, nor strengthened and elevated past connections.
I understand that by definition, a tool is something used in performing an operation. If you treat twitter as a task, you’ve already failed. For that misguided group of users the tool talk makes perfect sense. But for anyone who has ever connected on twitter with another person, you know that it’s less tool and more heart.
Calling twitter a tool is like calling the larynx a gadget. It’s an insult to psychology, anthropology and sociology. A slap to the face of communication as it attempts to evolve into something new. A belittlement intended to confuse and keep the world ignorant of the enormous opportunity that is here today. Tools can help shape the world, but only ideas and passion can change it. Give twitter your time and attention, and you’ll soon discover there is no tool, there is just us. The vocal chords become hidden deep within the throat, all that is seen is the moving of the mouth, all that is heard is the voice.
A few months ago, my son’s trombone was an instrument. Now it’s his voice. His passion flows through the metal tubing that once only collected spit from bursts of loud air. The instrument is only a tool while not in his hands. Once picked up, it becomes an extension of his body, it’s his voice, it’s his heart, it’s who he is. Music is more than just sound, it’s the artist’s soul. Twitter is that magical song, not the mechanical instrument.
Twitter is not the chisel, twitter is the vision deep within Michelangelo’s block of marble. A tool is a means to an end. The statue of David inspires long after the tool has been placed back in its dusty case. If the Renaissance had twitter, the tweets of Michelangelo would be studied and cherished. His twitter stream wouldn’t be seen as the chisel, but as the artist himself. A glimpse into the mind of the man. I’d love to know what Michelangelo had for lunch before finishing his last brush stroke in the Sistine Chapel. To get inside his mind would be a gift, a glimpse of brilliance no tool could provide.
Once “social” enters the tool business, things change forever. Twitter isn’t the hammer that built my house, twitter is the people who live within it. It is their memories, their events, their celebrations, their sorrows, their surprises.
A father who hands down a gun to a son doesn’t see the tool, he sees the story that lives within the well-worn barrel. The cheeks that have rested firmly on the stock. The eyes that have focused steadily on the bead. To call the family relic a tool is to devalue the people who’ve held it in their hands and in their hearts before you.
If you’ve made it through all this drivel and the metaphorical nonsense I’ve weaved, I salute you. Now here’s the mindfuck… the above rant was birthed 2+ years ago. Before twitter became a tool. Yes, I hate to say this, but twitter is now a tool.
Twitter has lost its way. Tom Watson wrote an excellent blog post that used the term “line-jumper” to describe what Twitter has done with its Promoted Trends. Faking a trend, getting it on the list without the aid of the community, jumping in line while others have to wait… THAT is bullshit. THAT is what makes a community question the value of the venue upon which they gather. Big business pissing on our playground, to me, signals the death of this once awesome communications movement.
What is all of this FAIL about? Money.
Twitter is about humans communicating with humans. The only business that will thrive on twitter is one that values mankind more than money. Those businesses are rare. You can’t fake compassion, at least not for long before someone cries foul. The only reason a for-profit joins twitter is to increase profits. If you find one that doesn’t value profits more than humans, you’ll soon find that it has been erased from the world, more than likely replaced by a company that does the exact same thing. only the valuing humans bit is a tad lower on their list.
I understand that twitter must someday make its own money, and is therefore stuck in the boat that I’ve just set afloat above. But stealing the fabric of the community to make a rug to wipe their feet on? Not cool.
When twitter becomes a marketing tool, it dies. The good news, we don’t need twitter. Twitter can be replaced with something new. Twitter’s killer feature is YOU. We are what makes twitter tick. When the avian flu strikes the twitter money tree, we won’t die, we’ll just fly away. To a new tree to build our nest, to chirp our songs, to spread our wings. Twitter may die, but our conversations and explorations will continue.
My suggestion to Twitter. Create a paid venue called Twitter Classic. Only allow users to join if they were on twitter pre-Oprah. Charge $20 a year. Or $140 for a lifetime membership. Create a “report spam” feature that gives the user credit for each verified act of spam to hit their stream. Credits can be used for future membership payments or given to charity. Don’t fuck with the formula that we crave, serve it to us with a smile and a thank you. Without us, there is no you. #RIPtwitter