Twitter is Dead, Long Live Twitter

Julian Sanchez notes that the rise of Twitter as a hot tool for political communication has killed Twitter the social networking service.

After resisting for a while, I finally signed up for Twitter a little over a year ago because it became clear that it was no longer socially optional: My friends were coordinating via Twitter rather than sending around e-mails about when and where to grab a few drinks or see a movie. In recent months, as Twitter has exploded as a medium for other kinds of communication, I notice that I seem to be using it less for that original coordinating feature. And a moment of reflection suggests why. Even if you protect your feed, and maintain separate social and professional accounts, there are going to be people in your social world from whom you can’t politely refuse a follow request. Now, the first 20 or so people I had following me on Twitter were more or less coextensive with the group of people I most often see socially, and basically all people I’m perfectly happy to have show up if I announce that I’m out for a beer at such-and-such a place. But let’s face it, there are really only so many friends and acquaintances most of us feel that way about, and so as a service like this is more widely adopted, there are invariably more and more people on that follow list who, while you may like them well enough, you don’t necessarily want to implicitly invite along every time you make plans.

Indeed, I’ve seen prominent Twitterati post tweets complaining about people they’re following cluttering their stream with the details of their personal lives.  That this was the whole point of the service seems to have escaped them.

Then again, I signed up for Twitter a couple years ago and quickly got bored with it because it was mostly banal social interaction. I now find it marginally useful as an information gathering and networking source, albeit one with a higher noise to signal ratio than I’d prefer.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    That this was the whole point of the service seems to have escaped them.

    The interesting thing to me about the Twits is how it has actually evolved beyond this initial aim.

    I use it pretty much exclusively to “follow” blogs/reporters/Sarah Palin/commentators, etc…a vast majority of whom I have never met personally.

    I also use it to follow certain hash tags and have found interesting content that way from people who weren’t in my “network.”

    Sure there are people who “twit” about boring personal stuff, but if they do it too much I just stop following them.

    I think most of the adult/professionals are using it more as an RSS feeder.

    I am sure, however, that it will lose its luster in short time and people will move to something else.

  2. Michael says:

    You’ve been on a bit of a Twitter/Google kick lately, haven’ you James? Maybe you should start a tech blog.

  3. Dodd says:

    I don’t do Twitter, but it seems to me that Facebook has pretty much taken over the ‘social organizing’ function he decries the loss of. And it’s not because Twitter’s been overcome by other types of content so much as that Facebook has made the central part of itself more like Twitter in that area while also offering lots of related functions. So it just makes sense to do that kind of thing there; Twitter, meanwhile, is gravitating toward a niche it can fill nicely without all that extraneous stuff.

    Sounds like win-win to me.

  4. James Joyner says:

    You’ve been on a bit of a Twitter/Google kick lately, haven’ you James? Maybe you should start a tech blog.

    Don’t have the time or expertise. Tech is a crowded, niche field. I mostly comment on the nexus of tech and politics or tech and blogging.