Why do you use Twitter?
The Times Online interviewed a psychologist and asked him why people use Twitter:
The clinical psychologist Oliver James has his reservations. â€œTwittering stems from a lack of identity. Itâ€™s a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity.â€
â€œWe are the most narcissistic age ever,â€ agrees Dr David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist and director of research based at the University of Sussex. â€œUsing Twitter suggests a level of insecurity whereby, unless people recognise you, you cease to exist. It may stave off insecurity in the short term, but it wonâ€™t cure it.â€
For Alain de Botton, author of Status Anxiety and the forthcoming The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Twitter represents â€œa way of making sure you are permanently connected to somebody and somebody is permanently connected to you, proving that you are alive. Itâ€™s like when a parent goes into a childâ€™s room to check the child is still breathing. It is a giant baby monitor.â€
Using a paintbrush to broad stroke all Twitterers as attention-craving solipsists seems like a simplistic and nescient answer to the question of why people micro-blog. I think that I had a similar illusion before I actually started using Twitter however so I can understand how people may believe that.
I started using Twitter as a way to socialize with people who were reading my blog. Blog comments are a bit restrictive in that respect since they can grow so fast it is difficult to keep track of a conversation and they are limited to a particular topic. But twitter allows me to keep in touch with people in a more casual format. It feels like a slow paced instant messenger service that I can keep open on my desktop and interact with people without breaking stride in my work which inevitably happens when you have an actual IM client running. With Twitter I can respond to messages directed at me when I have a second or just check up on people I follow throughout the day. It’s a 140 character window into friends or acquaintance’s lives while we’re stuck behind a computer at work for 8 hours a day. I’ve never really felt that the people I follow are narcissistic about themselves and feel the need to shout to the world what they’re doing at any particular moment. It feels more like coworkers having a quick chat at a water cooler about events that are happening at any given moment. I don’t mind tweets are mundane or even just plain goofy. I happen to like the cross slice of humanity that trickles through my monitor in a sentence or two.