Twitter is changing the pace, structure of communications

Nothing is local. Everything is global. This sort of sentiment gets reinforced daily to us, or so it seems.

Nothing is local. Everything is global. This sort of sentiment gets reinforced daily to us, or so it seems.

The globalization of experience has been accelerated through short-form communications tool Twitter. The simplistic product, which reached prominence last year, limits any communication to 140 characters. Much like my column last week, "Print Journalism teaches us the importance of precision," Twitter is rigid in its demands of brevity.

Twitter has spawned a new form of journalism, just as blogging rendered - for its purposes, anyway - the traditional story structure obsolete. A Twitter journalist, evidenced brilliantly by Time's Anne Marie Cox, is one who tells a story as much with what is not included as what is. And the instance on short statements leads to a lot of hilarious commentary.

Twitter is kind of a revolutionary tool that has numerous practical elements. It could be invaluable in a disaster situation. It allows people to easily connect with others from a different background or country. I might find more benefits if I checked my account more often.

However, Twitter also helps propagate rampant arrogance, terribly self-indulgent memes, and a steamrolling of those who get in the way. Evidence can be found through the prism of the infamous - to tech nerds, at least - South by Southwest keynote interview between BusinessWeek's Sarah Lacy and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckenberg.

The crowd immediately chided Lacy's interview style, tone, and questions on multiple conduits - verbally, while present for the interview, and digitally, through Twitter.
Whether or not the interview was "the worst thing ever," as many claimed, is a question best left for the annals of history, where it will never be examined - on account of its tedium. But it does serve as an example of the virulence of communications.

Unsurprisingly, the tone of the criticism got heated, and friends in the digital revolution found themselves arguing - or, using Twitter parlance: tweeting - over which was more disastrous to society: Lacy's misuse of the nerds' and Zuckenberg's time or the absence of civility in critical discourse. Many, it seemed, were incensed at Lacy solely through third-party interpretation of what a fellow Twitterer wrote, based on what someone in attendance said.

Lacy was the obvious recipient (some may say victim) of said furor, but it could as easily be a PR firm, its clients, or your own poor self. The pace of blogs' effect on reputation now looks glacial in comparison to the speed of Twitter.

So, like all new media technologies, Twitter is both magnificent and evil. Obviously, if you think it's more the former, you're likely already a power user. If you find it in the latter camp, you may find this column as a further reason to stay away. But doing so would just mean that you're missing another conversation happening about your company or your brand. There is always a Lacy up there. Next time, it could be you.

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