One recent morning I accidentally left my PDA at home, so during my daily train ride, I was forced to focus exclusive attention on the two newspapers that I have delivered each morning at my house, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Frankly I was shocked at how little attention I must have been paying to them lately. This is a galling fact for me, a diehard newspaper true-believing print junkie. In subsequent days I have made a concerted effort to correct the imbalance. This is not out of a grudging obligation, but because I honestly believe I am missing something significant if I don't give myself the time to digest complex issues in the format that a credible newspaper provides.
But there is no doubt that recently, and acutely, I have become increasingly distracted by yes, Twitter. This is not a startling revelation to many, I'm sure, but it certainly was to me. And I don't know if it bodes well for Twitter, I'm afraid. Just as I and others like me have joined the party in earnest, I wonder if some of the early adopters are beginning to resent the establishment moving into what was once a quirky, but exclusive, neighborhood.
I was put on notice of this recently when one of my colleagues, who has Tweeted far longer than many of us, updated with: “twitter used to be so cool; but now... _________________ fill it in.”
Ouch! I'm not exactly sure what he meant (and I don't dare ask), but I immediately felt like one of the nerds who had infiltrated the cool section of the school cafeteria, only to be told it wasn't cool any longer, and I would not be told where the cool area was being reformed.
OK, I might be a little oversensitive here (and clearly in need of some regression therapy), but let's be honest, isn't there something a little high school about the whole platform, indeed the whole “social media” universe?
That fact doesn't negate Twitter's relevance, impact, or its more serious applications, as evidenced by recent demonstrations in Iran. And those sober pursuits will continue to find their way to Twitter, until the next big thing comes along.
So does it really matter if Twitter loses its cool factor, or ever had it to begin with? I rather think it does, in order to continue its enduring appeal to marketers and companies that are brave enough to take part in a frontier that is not governed by the same rules of communication they grew up with.
We need to avoid going overboard, though, and stripping Twitter - and whatever the next thing is - of the very features that make them special and effective. The crucial point is to preserve authenticity, because this community will first tune out individual violators of that tenet, and later turn against a platform that proliferates with it.
In all likelihood, Twitter's cachet is probably intact for a while. And it was a good lesson for me to keep my media diet sensibly apportioned between the social and the highly unsociable. So I will be behind a newspaper on my train most mornings, taking peeks at Twitter when I absolutely can't resist it any longer.