Twitter falls short of high potential

Twitter falls short, with too much of a good thing. Too much information all floods to the same place, leaving users overwhelmed.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Twittering and Tweeting? It sounds like nothing but a child’s game. But recently it has become the new fad to hit the media and online gurus.

Twitter has the problem that is commonly seen in society: It has too much of a good thing.

By setting up a Twitter account, users are inviting unending streams of information, both pointless and meaningful, to overflow their computers and minds. This would seem like a great idea, but Twitter falls short of having a highly beneficial purpose by giving too much.

The idea of using Twitter to stay up-to-date on current news stories is great. Receiving short bursts of information about breaking news without going through the trouble of looking it up for themselves is ideal for Americans. After getting the brief synopsis, users can decide if it is worth the extra time to read the entire story or research the topic.

“With its requirement for people to squeeze their thoughts into 140 characters or less, Twitters is a perfect tool for a fast-paced, mobile society,” said Janna Anderson, director of a research project called Imagining the Internet. “Compressed information fits and it offers quick-hitting details we can apply to our lives. Most of the early adopters using Twitter to communicate today are writing on the road, from conferences, sales calls and other mobile stations in which they want to share tightly written information chunks.”

But how is this any different from scanning headlines on a news Web site?

The main difference seems to be that on Twitter, users not only get these bursts of news filling their screens, but there are personal updates from the users they are following. These can range from someone’s opinion about news to what someone ate for lunch.

This can be useful in its own way, as people catch up and learn what their friends, or even strangers, have been up to, but it seems to take the personal parts of friendship away.

Instead of personally conversing with their friends, people can just check updates and feel like they are connected. They know some of the tiniest details of others’ lives, and can get updates on the bigger parts.

“The positive is that it’s an easy and quick way to connect with people, however loosely,” said Colin Donohue, coordinator of student media and instructor in communications at Elon University.

When people do have “conversations,” they are publicized and actually a nuisance to their other friends. Even if someone sends a direct message, it shows up on everyone else’s homepage. This leaves the users who are part of the conversation in an awkward spotlight, and the users who are not part of the conversation annoyed and confused by their homepage filling up with one side of a conversation.

That is assuming these people can find their friends at all.

A major shortcoming of Twitter is the poor search tools.

Glyn Vandenberg, a junior at Denver University, set up a Twitter account nearly four months ago but has yet to get involved.

“It’s a little lacking,” Vandenberg said. “I don’t use it because I can’t figure out how to get friends without already knowing their e-mails or what-not.”

Twitter has the potential to serve as a very useful tool, for news gathering or connecting people, but as of now, the two combined together leaves an uncomfortable, overwhelming influx of information.

“Twitter is a hindrance to effective communication and storytelling,” Donohue said.

With a few adjustments, such as allowing for private conversations, separating friends’ updates from news updates and creating easier access to find people, Twitter could be an even bigger success

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