So I decided to heed my strange dream about Twitter and plunge in. Over the past three days a few dozen multi-level marketers, self-professed Internet gurus, and others who guarantee I'll have a thousand followers in no time all want to be my friends so they can find out, on a minute-by-minute basis, what kind of sandwich I'm eating for lunch. Like any other place either real or virtual, newcomers are easy prey for snake-oil salesmen. I followed them back for a day and discovered they were pretty boring, so am now concentrating on tweets from news organizations (New York Times, NPR, CNN, JTA, The Onion), people who have interesting things to say about design, Judaism, or social media, and actual friends (few of whom have ventured into these strange waters).
Twitter feels a bit like the Wild West, as comments, complaints, and trivial, terse bits of info get tossed about with abandon. Every time my Twitteriffic window pops up, I feel like I'm sticking a butterfly net into the wind. I doubt Twitter will help my business (my original intention, and why I use my real name there; "alto artist" will stay home on the blog), but one never knows. Perhaps a random follower will be intrigued by my words about design and Judaism and hire me for my knowledge about both. But whatever happens, I believe Twitter is another key step into this new world of Web 2.0, (or 3.0, or whatever number we're now up to) and life with far fewer walls and boundaries than ever before. I remember some years ago when "push" was the rage--news and ads on your desktop even before you knew you needed them!--and then everyone discovered how irritating this was. But now we all want it on our phones, too impatient to wait even a few extra minutes for email to be "pulled" in on a regular schedule. With Twitter, the whole world becomes an IM. Headlines and the musings of hundreds of strangers appear the instant they're written; no need to waste seconds clicking on a bookmark.
Oddly, this is not as annoying as it sounds (so far). I suddenly feel very connected to the world, or at least the geeky, early-adopter part of it. This technology is like TV, a stream of passive input. And there is something, dare I say, spiritual about it, a chain of ideas that reminds me of my perception of God as a small part of something larger that resides in us all. Last year I compared God to BitTorrent; maybe Twitter is a better metaphor, because God is always sending us messages even when we choose not to get them. But, forgive the endless extension of this metaphor, one day we find the right piece of software and are ready to receive.
Maybe this new sense of connection will bleed over into the culture at large, like other radical inventions, and those involved in the Middle East conflict will learn to listen to each other in new ways. Or we'll learn from Twitter's enforced 140-character terseness, and begin to speak directly to one another and say what we mean. Or we'll fully embrace the concept of having "followers" and start to see everyone as a prophet, each speaking a part of the greater truth.
Or we'll decide that Twitter is a big waste of time. Who knows, but it's nice to imagine a world in which technology has some kind of positive, spiritual effect.