Newsletter - sign up here
Search Webster
Webster's pieces from The Oldie
Webster's Webwatch

Twitter.  Don't bother

April 2009


Twitter.  It is a silly name for a silly idea, but it seems to be all the rage at the moment, at least in the press, radio and TV. 

During the last few weeks I  don’t seem to have opened a paper or listened to a radio programme (even on Radio 4 – in fact especially on Radio 4) without someone or other banging on about, which they seem to see as a major internet development.  So I thought I had better look at it through Oldie eyes.

Here’s my considered view – don’t bother with it.  Not yet, anyway, and then only if you have time to waste.  I’ll explain why. is yet another “social networking” site, like Facebook, Myspace and others.  “Social networking” is a phrase that makes my heart sink, like “chat room.” is fairly new (2006) and it seems to have caught the attention of those who are easily impressed by novelty.  This especially seems to include media types, who live in dread fear of missing the latest fad.

The website gives you your own page (it’s free, don’t ask me who is paying), on which you describe what you are doing right now (“Webster has just taken a bath”) in 140 characters or fewer.  That last sentence was 201 characters – far too long.  You can issue a new bulletin as often as you wish.

These entries then become visible to your followers, who are people who have subscribed to your stream of consciousness (either because they found you, or by invitation from you).  You can then comment on each other’s statements, or just read the, and those of all the other people that you “follow”.  As you can probably imagine, it’s nearly all inconsequential drivel.

Here I will admit a weakness in my position.  I have tried to get to know Twitter – tried quite hard - but I just can’t get to grips with it.  To be blunt, I don’t seem properly to understand how it works, but what’s more interesting is that I have discovered that I really can’t be bothered to work at it. 

I like to think I’m quite good at grasping these sorts of things, and I’m sure I could do it eventually, but somehow Twitter brings my inner Luddite to the surface.  The truth is that I really do not want to follow the unedited, uncommissioned witterings of anyone at all.  Life’s just too short.  Do I care what Renaissance Man Stephen Fry (a very keen Twitter user) is having for supper?  No, I do not.

Mind you, the Twitter people have one thing very right; I love the thought of limiting the length of messages.  The email system is grotesquely overloaded, especially in the commercial world.  In one email-heavy organisation I work with, I have decreed that I will delete, without reading, any emails that are “copied” to me – I will only read an email if it is addressed directly to me.  The effect has been dramatic ; the number of emails I receive has dropped by two thirds, and people are now ringing me up and telling me what I need to know, and not wasting my time with rubbish I don’t need.

The theory of very short bursts of information is a step in the right direction.

Despite all this grumbling, I am one of the five million people on (go to if you can make it work) and if more than ten Oldie readers become followers, I promise to have another go at it, and stick some interesting links up there.