It's going to come to a head at some point soon. We're all going to realize that Twitter is the ultimate distraction.
The problem with saying that Twitter is a distraction comes at a cost. People don't want to think (or admit) that they are wasting their time - mostly because even defining what a "waste of time" is can be subjective (and who is to say that a distraction in one's life is also a waste of time?). I try not to kid myself. I realize that watching most prime time television is a waste of time and there are many other activities that us human beings engage in that don't really add much value to our own lives and the lives of people around us. Twitter could well be the next great distraction, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, so long as you can admit it to yourself and appreciate that we all need moments of distraction. The challenge comes in identifying when these little distractions wind up taking up too much time in our lives.
Twitter as a distraction engine.
Brands that turn to Twitter usually do so to ensure that:
- If someone is talking about their brands, they can be (somewhat) responsive.
- They can broadcast/engage with those who are interested in their brands.
Ultimately, Twitter is just a short, fast and easy way to share a message. As much as it has become a distraction for the majority of people, it is also a great place to poke your nose around to find out what is being talked about, what's in the news or to find something interesting to read, watch or listen to. All of those activities are - fundamentally - activities that are distracting you from doing the work you were meant to do.
Why is Twitter such a distraction?
- The short messages (tweets) happen in bursts. This is both addictive to watch and so "snackable" that it's hard to resist.
- It's easy to bang out a tweet in a couple of seconds... and it feels good to let people know what you're thinking/what you're up to.
- It happens in real-time, so whenever you're engaged with Twitter, you are "in the moment."
- People say, do and share interesting things.
- It's the ultimate in reality programming. What's more interesting: to watch the story of people we don't know (or those that are made up) verses the story of people we do know or are interested in?
- It's highly mobile. Tweeting or following Twitter is something that's easy and mindless to do when you're standing with one arm wrapped around the pole in a subway or have a handful of minutes while in-between meetings.
- It's an easy way to follow and connect with new and interesting people.
A distraction is still a distraction.
Some will take this Blog post as an indictment on Twitter. That is not the case. I use, like and connect with Twitter on a more-than-daily basis, but I'm cautious of it. I can see/feel how easy it is to sucked into the vortex of interesting quips, tweets, retweets, responding to messages, links and provocations. While I love that type of back-and-forth banter, the work I do for our clients at Twist Image takes precedence. So too does my writing (this Blog, my newspaper and magazine columns, my future books), speaking and Podcasting. While I can appreciate the value of Twitter, it falls well below the value I get from creating more substantive ideas in other forums (my own art). Twitter and the tweets that go along with them are fleeting moments that disappear almost as quickly as they are published.
I'm ok with Twitter as an engine of distraction, but I often wonder if the more serious power users see it in the same vein?