Twitter is evil

James Hrynyshyn is completely missing the point. He has a post up where he tendentiously explains why twitter is evil, as if it should be a surprise. Why is the Pope Catholic? Why is the darkness dark? Why does Microsoft suck? These aren’t interesting questions: the point is that they are.

I have a Twitter account. I do not have a “My Little Pony” account. Think about it. Isn’t it quite probable that I would leap into this technology precisely because it has great potential for evil? Be seduced, and embrace the evil. It’s fun!

One hundred forty characters is exactly enough room for a “Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!”, but not enough for lengthy monologuing, the bane of villain’s plans everywhere. It’s enough to leave vague hints that has everyone wondering and guessing to what, exactly, one is up. One can easily configure it so one is only receiving tweets from a tiny number of people, who can mostly be ignored, while sending tweets that distract thousands. It is a force multiplier that can turn trivia into terrifying rumors that reverberate across Tweetopia.

Come on. You don’t think a benign force would compel people to start using ridiculous terms like “tweet” and “twitter”, do you? It’s like “blog” — a monstrosity that can corrupt a whole language.

Clucking regretfully over the phenomenon did not stop the German Wehrmacht, nor did calling them brutally efficient. Same with Twitter. It’s evil. We’re celebrating that.


  1. Bruce Gee says

    First, there was the book. Then, the essay. Then the email.

    Now discourse has been reduced to 140 characters or less. Soon, all conversations will consist of single words, then hand gestures, and then blessed, blessed silence.

  2. HenryFord says

    I must be getting old. I used to embrace ever technological inovation, hardware or software. For the first time ever I start seeing things like Twitter and Facebook and can’t help but wonder – why don’t they all just go the pub?

  3. Numad says

    “Hrynyshyn is completely missing the point.”

    Hrynyshyn is completely missing any vowels.

  4. says

    Clucking regretfully over the phenomenon did not stop the German Wehrmacht, nor did calling them brutally efficient.

    Clucking disapprovingly from the pulpit can stop people from gaining any sense about evolution, however.

    Cower before the power of god, a power greater than the German Wehrmacht.

    Granted, it’s not likely to be able to stop the evil of twitter, though. That’s because twitter’s another unreasoning phenomenon for the ignorant masses.

    Glen D

  5. Alex says

    …why don’t they all just go the pub?

    We still do. So we can tweet about it.

  6. JackC says

    I don’t understand tweets. Nothing I could ever say could possibly fit into under 140 characters.


  7. Alex says

    @Jack #10

    Think of twitter as the access point to the tweet cloud. This is a cloud of ambient information, most of it trivial, some of it interesting, where tweeple participate. Participation is usually just leaving a personal status update like “OMG, lunch was great at The Cottage this afternoon, I highly recommend it.” Stuff like that.

  8. dean says

    “Hrynyshyn is completely missing any vowels.
    Well, sometimes.”

    Aaaaah, but the “a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y” refers to vowel SOUNDS, not to letters classified as vowels. So it is true that Hrynyshyn is without vowels.

  9. Alex says

    See now Adam, that’s an example of a good status update. I’ll tweet it for you.

  10. says

    Sir, your long Bwahahahaha… (etc.) seems to have broken your browser (at least as my IE version 6 sees it). It caused the text of your post to begin where the ads end and the page was wide enough to accomodate your hearty laughter. ;)

  11. Alex says

    @dean #17

    So I thought that vowel sounds comprised the body of a syllable, while consonant sounds comprised the end-points of a syllable. So if that’s true, by your analysis that name does not even have a complete syllable? How can that be? Where did I go wrong there?

  12. Vole says

    Wonderful name. Is he one of those intelligent horses out of Gulliver’s Travels?

  13. Murray says

    Evil I can handle. However, Twitter also happens to be stupid. That’s where I draw the line.

  14. Gingerbaker says

    “Clucking regretfully over the phenomenon did not stop the German Wehrmacht”

    Beauty! A new universally applicable phrase!

    Wife: “Nothing worth watching on TV tonight, again!”

    Me(tonight): “Clucking regretfully over the phenomenon did not stop the German Wehrmacht”

    Wife: OK! I’m going to bed.

  15. Hank Fox says

    He fails to mention that the Twitter servers, fed masses of data in very small blocks, are evolving into sentience. In less than 10 years, we’ll have a globe-spanning artificial intelligence with an IQ of 10,000 and a mental age of 15 (with an attention span of 8 virtual seconds. OMGSTFULOL!!111!)


    If a self-aware computer got religion, who would it worship?

  16. CatBallou says

    No, Dean. English has many more vowels that just those five–but those are the only letters we use to write them. And Alex, syllables don’t always start and end with consonants:

    Of course, that’s written English; in speech, the second syllables of the first two words have a “y” sound as the onset.

  17. Newfie says

    Ok, I joined the damned thing.
    Address in my typepad profile if anybody wants to stalk me.

  18. says

    “In the beginning was the Word. Then came the fucking word processor. Then came the thought processor. Then came the death of literature. So it goes.”

    –Martin Silenus,
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons

  19. NFPendleton says

    My daughter has a My Little Pony account actually, and she seems very happy with it.

    But I’d argue that it’s just as evil as Twitter. Sara Bella, too. *shudders*

  20. Jim says

    Sorry, PZ. I agree with your posts almost all the time, but this one… stick to biology, you fail at linguistics.

  21. debaser says

    What you say Jim?! Linguistics?? That’s kinda a stretch for what the post is about. Looks kinda like you fail at subject comprehension

  22. Jadehawk says

    I don’t have Twitter.

    but then, i don’t even have a phone. what do I need Twitter for, if I don’t have a phone?

  23. Ivan says

    > echo -n “Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!” | wc -c


  24. Newfie says

    The Master is outside the realm of its universe, Jadehawk. Kinda like religion, eh?

  25. Carlie says

    Hank Fox!!! Good to see you. Haven’t noticed you around these parts for awhile. However, I’m not that observant, so please ignore this if you’ve been posting the whole time.

  26. Lee Picton says

    All right, all right, already. Look I just joined Facebook and that at least serves a small purpose as I can find out what the spawn is doing (spawns never call their mothers unless they want something). My friends can also keep tabs on their grandchildren. But twitter? Please. Next thing you know people are going to tell the world when they are about to take a dump. I am NEVER going to tweet.

  27. says

    #27 Isaac Asimov wrote a short story about a robot who became religious. I believe it’s called “Reason”. The robot worshiped a robot-god, and believed that humans were merely a less perfect creation of the robot-god. It was on a power station that transmitted power to Earth. Fortunately, it believed its programming was a command from God, so it continued to follow the programming given to it, merely insisting that it was following God’s commands rather than programming given by mere humans …

  28. JackC says

    Alex@15 – I suppose irony is a lost art where you are. Sorry to hear that. I can only say, the post was itself less than 140 characters, and yes, I DO have a twitter account.

    I just don’t like it very much.

    Now – if I said something like “Engineers never speak in absolutes”, would you say I was wrong?

    :Obligatory winky:


  29. Jason Picton says

    Twitter is not evil – just real time updates – basically a facebook or myspace that send updates to your phone. What’s next – intercranial internet access…

    However, since my mother parental unit won’t use it – perhaps I should .. just because I can…

  30. Jadehawk says

    note to spawn-of-LeePicton:

    revealling your sneaky plans on the internet, not so clever ;-)

  31. says

    Twitter isn’t evil, it’s just a great steaming heap of crap. I thought Twitter was a pointless load of shite when I first heard of it a few years ago. I think Twitter is a pointless load of shite now. I’m about as narcissistic a dickhead as you’ll ever meet, and I *still* haven’t the slightest interest in informing anyone about, nor do I know a single person who wants to know, the trivial minutiae of what I’m doing on a minute-by-minute basis. Honestly, my life isn’t all *that* boring (it could be worse), but Twittering would turn it into eye-stabbing, wrist-slashing tedium in about 90 minutes — living it is just fine, but reading about it in installments? Fuck no. It ain’t no Robert Ludlum novel. Twitter is strictly for douchenozzles with NPD: may it fall back into the obscurity from whence it came.

  32. Newfie says

    Tell us how you really feel, Emmet.
    I’m gonna give it chance, I have a feeling that, like you, it might not be my bag. I don’t feel like a web 2.0 person. That said, Phil Plait’s tweets of his struggles with modern technology this evening were amusing.

    / Emmet is a Newfoundland word for a large ant.

  33. says

    My evil cackle clocks at 1,000 characters minimum. Been trying to cut back… But what can you do. Evil glee is addictive.

    Also, re the pub thing, these things are not mutually exclusive. I’m poasting this from a pub (Le Diable, at Mont Tremblant, where they’re playing the Hip, which is a very good thing).

  34. says

    Erm… that’s La Diable.

    Accursed Romance languages ‘n their freakish fondness for gender. Whyinhell should a noun have a sex, I ask you? I mean, sure, they reproduce, that I can’t argue with… But as if they care even the least little bit what they reproduce with

    I digress. Point is: Up To Here ‘n beer brewed on the premises. All good.

  35. steve says

    Posted by: Numad | April 3, 2009 5:13 PM

    “Hrynyshyn is completely missing the point.”

    Hrynyshyn is completely missing any vowels.

    I think it’s pronounced “Shuh-chef-skee”.

  36. Jafafa Hots says

    Twitter is not evil, it’s just stupid and pointless.
    Anyway, the real linguistic concern is not over words like twitter or tweet entering common usage, it’s whether twitter users should be referred to as twits or twats.

  37. says

    I agree, Twitter is not evil, it’s just a tool for kids and adults to play around with, no real value only it’s the “stylish” thing to do now…lol

  38. bassmanpete says

    The only thing I know about Twitter is that people on blogs quite often mention it. Hang on, there’s something coming through on my teletype!

  39. says

    Hang on, there’s something coming through on my teletype!

    Yes, they’re blowing the dust out of the system today. Didn’t you get the warning? The runners were sent out weeks ago…

    Anyways, you should turn if off, unplug it, and put a hemp bag over the socket. Attach the bag tightly, and leave in place all day. Tomorrow morning, the bag will be full of dust, blown out of the cables today. Carefully remove the bag—put a few old scrolls on the floor to catch any loose dust—and dispose of tidly. (Please leave the Bronze Age as you found it.) Reconnect your machine, crank it up (or fire up the boiler if you have one of the newer models), and your state-of-the-art service will be fully restored, working even better than before.

    The next episode of Mr Homer’s Illiad has arrived and will soon be sent to all subscribers.

  40. SteveM says

    re Emmet @55:

    That was great, your OM is well deserved. For what it’s worth, that is exactly how I feel about Twitter.

  41. says

    I like Twitter. I mean, I wouldn’t have it replace email or blogs or talking or whatever but it’s got things in it’s favour. Take the G20 protests the other day. All sorts of people were sending observations as they happened, from the street, from mobiles; where else can you get that much raw data on events unfolding? Based on at least one newspaper liveblog, the MSN seemed to be using it as an important source of leads to chase up as well.

    Also the character limit is not wholly bad. It forces people to edit quite aggressively and so tweets often end up very pithily written.

  42. says

    Emmett@55: Not everyone uses like that though, and you don’t have to follow those who do. Plenty of people just send a message if they do (or see, or think) something which is actually noteworthy.

  43. blueelm says

    What makes twitter worth it? I joined a long time ago, but I never used it much. Maybe I should give another try, but it seemed like none of my friends were on it so it was kind of pointless. I work around computers all day every day so I don’t exactly want for… material.

  44. Sven DiMilo says

    As we used to say in the old neighborhood:
    Hey, tweet this! *points in general direction of crotch*

  45. Rev BDC's washing machine says

    Yum! Socks!! I love socks!!! Do wish the monkey would wash them first. Does it think I like eating dirty socks?

  46. Patricia, OM says

    My pullets twitter and cackle. Probably they say the same crap as most of the twitter junk I’ve heard about.

  47. A sock says

    Help! Help! I’m being drowned & thrashed!
    This is an example of the violence inherent in the system…

  48. Patricia, OM says

    Remember, nobody and I mean nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog.

    (goes to check Chai)

  49. SC, OM says

    I’m finding this thread amusing, but I’m off to the shower and then beach for a walk, after washing some dishes. I hope Rev. and his dog enjoy lunch.

  50. Patricia, OM says

    I’m having left over bacon chowder for breakfast. Then off to the farm to frame a new chick holding house. We’re getting sick of listening to the little buggers ‘tweeting’ all night.

  51. Patricia, OM says

    From the Jack’s menu – Rover Pork Roll – I’m guessing that’s a hot dog wrapped in bacon?

  52. Patricia, OM says

    Hawt damn! Hi Janine, I hope you were extra insulting, slutty and sinful while I was gone. *smirk*

  53. Janine, Insulting Sinner says

    And I see that your pile of electronic bits has risen from the dead.

  54. Patricia, OM says

    Yep, got the bugs out and put in some new protective stuff. It only took four days, and no prayer to resurrect.

  55. says

    JackC @93, oh good! Someone got it. Despite this being a tough audience, I was seriously worried no-one would—that was a long time ago…
    I wanted to include a link, but couldn’t find one which explained. (I seem to be going through one those periods where my search-fu is more search-fubar.) Even the Pfft! of All Knowledge, Wikipedia, doesn’t explain.

  56. Janine, Insulting Sinner says

    Patricia, in case you have not checked it out, go to the You People Are Obsessed thread. Read up on maggie. You will just love her. Just about the most arrogant troll I ever laid my eyes on.

  57. JackC says

    One cryptic referenced deserves another!

    BTW: I once worked for Craig McCaw. He ostensibly has a patent on one of these. No! Really!


  58. RichVR says

    @5 “Granted, it’s not likely to be able to stop the evil of twitter, though. That’s because twitter’s another unreasoning phenomenon for the ignorant masses.

    Glen D”

    So PZ is ignorant?

  59. says

    I sure am, about a lot of things.

    I don’t think twitter is an “unreasoning phenomenon”, though — it’s just a way for people to have easy conversations over the internet.

    It’s actually just the first step in the emergence of the borg global consciousness.

  60. Jafafa Hots says

    I was thinking last night that the status thing on Facebook is like those magnetic words you put on a fridge and can make sentences out of. A silly but harmless and amusing accessory placed on a reasonably useful object.

    Twitter is like having those magnetic words without a refrigerator.

  61. says

    Yea, it’s easy to find decodings of “TPC”, but I’ve yet to find a site which explains why that’s the correct answer to “What’s next – intercranial internet access…”. However, just before my faithful mouse† died yesterday, I found a YouTube clip of the critical scene,

    That should explain the joke.

     † Computer, not pet.‡ It’s obviously better now. I don’t think it turned into a newt. I haven’t asked it what it thinks.

     ‡ But I did have several pet mice as a child.

  62. JackC says

    Marvelous! Wow. How did we ever watch such horrid movies? Ever since that particular one (and one where Eddie Albert (?) is some overlord-executive who’s favourite phrase appears to be “Dis – Co – NECT!” – Head Office maybe??) I have kind of viewed “The Phone Company” as “The Enemy”.

    Perhaps that is why I now work for them?

    And I was serious about McCaw, though this isn’t


  63. dog (covered in ketchup) says

    yuck! use salsa nexts times. its still a messs buts tastes betters.

  64. Mena says

    I dunno, it seems more lame than evil. Ok, very lame, especially when congresscritters are doing it during a speech and no one thinks that that’s rude.