Kevin Drum discusses the issue of Twitter addiction and the anxiety that some people have about trying to keep abreast of all the feeds and worrying about what they might be missing otherwise, and the withdrawal pains they suffer when for one reason or another they fail to keep up or try to quit.
I mentioned before that while I have a Twitter account, I have yet to send my first tweet. At the beginning I toyed with the idea of doing so but I am increasingly convinced that it is not a good idea, for me at least. It seems like the only time I hear about other people’s tweets is when it’s a clever one-liner or someone puts his or her foot in it trying to make a clever joke and failing badly or some other public relations disaster.
Since I can never think of funny jokes, the chances are that I am more likely to say something stupid. Since I also tend to be wordy (witness the multipart series on the Higgs and other topics), compressing my thoughts into 140 characters would be pure torture.
The main problem is that we are never as clear in expressing our ideas as we think we are. Any teacher knows this because however clearly we think we taught something, we will be shocked at how some students got quite the wrong impression. The best we can hope for in communication is that we arrive at an approximate understanding of each other, usually after several exchanges.
I am firmly convinced of the truth of the sentiment attributed to philosopher of science Karl Popper that it is impossible to speak in a such way that we will not be misunderstood. I think that is true at the best of times, when one has all the time and space in the world to carefully say things. The potential for misunderstanding is increased ten-fold or even hundred-fold when one says something using a medium that encourages speed and demands extreme brevity.
So while Twitter has the advantage of immediacy, for me that that does not compensate for its negatives.