Is Twitter Just a Big Ego Trip?


I recently signed up with twitter. Similar to my facebook status, I don’t update it very often. I struggle internally with the questions like: Why would anyone want to read the mundane details of my life? Why would I waste hours of my day reading about other peoples mundane details? Is this entire thing a big ego trip or digital narcissism?

Then there are other moments when I think I get why it is getting so huge. I connected with an old friend in another city, I talk about with friends something significant that happened to me, I read thoughts that encourage or inspire me. 

My brother Michael recently passed on a web site that cause me to consider that there may be more value than I initially thought. Here is an excerpt:

…the claim that Twitter is nothing but mindless inanities is just as wrong as the analogous claim for blogs — in fact it’s precisely the same claim, five years later. There are other things you can do with the technology — the technical terms are “lifecasting” [here’s what I had for dinner] vs. “mindcasting” [here’s a thought, a question, an observation, a link to something more substantial].

—Sean Carroll, “Twitter Agonistes,” Discover, April 23, 2009

My current questions are: Have the “lifecasters” ruined my view of how this could be useful? Have I been too quick to judge? Do I need to rethink why and how I use it?

I think that instant moment by moment connections are increasingly having profound effects on our culture – both positive and negative. Often I feel the response is either to run from the technology because of the possible negative effects, or mindlessly embrace it. Things like Twitter are not going away. I believe we are responsible to seek to understand it, dialog what it’s effects are, and seek a thoughtful response to it.

9 Responses to “Is Twitter Just a Big Ego Trip?”

  1. Steve Knisely Says:

    I think for me it’s a few things that makes facebook or twitter attractive. First, it enables me to connect with those I would otherwise never connect. Second, I think the life and mind casting is all an invitation to start a conversation. Yeah there’s a ton of totally meaningless conversation, but some of isn’t, and that the important part. I don’t believe in quality of over quantity. I think that’s a myth. I believe quality only comes out of quantity.

    Your brother is also the reason I signed up for facebook.

  2. amyedolan Says:

    love this post! hope it sparks great conversation –
    as an introvert – i’ve found that both twitter and facebook actually help me use my relational energy more efficiently. facebook helps me stay connected to family and friends – either by viewing their daily updates, looking at pictures, or chatting, while twitter keeps me connected professionally – i’m engaging in helpful conversations around topics that are most important to me.

  3. Mark, great post and great questions that I need to be asking myself (as one who is prone to mindlessly embrace new technology).

    Steve, I like your thoughts about Twitter being an invitation to start a conversation. I, similar to Mark, tend to tire quickly of the lifecasting stuff, and would much rather see my Tweetie feed filled with people’s thoughts, ideas, links, etc. rather than what they ate for breakfast.

    Challenging me a bit on the other side, I recently read this article that gave a different perspective of some of the more mundane conversation that takes place on Twitter:

  4. Twitter has proven to be a great resource that keeps me connected with many people within my professional context – a lot of productive solutions and ideas have emerged from those “tweets”.

    we’ve seen many clients utilize tools like this to organically bump up their search engine rankings… so from a web marketing standpoint, these things can be a huge boost for folks promoting their businesses online.

    on the flip side, i often feel a DESPERATE need to unplug. my days are almost too overloaded with information via the web – so much interaction that, in many cases, continues to multiply! social sites and apps like twitter are big contributors to this.

    it’s a pretty awkward balance.

  5. graham Says:

    there are people in the world who NEED to know what i’m eating for every meal (including snacks and liquid energy/protein/hormone boosts.) in fact, these people are willing to pay good money for such privileged information.

    twitter offers them access to this information free of charge.

    and this must lead us to ask: a) is twitter socialistically dismantling our economy? and b) is it changing the face of celebrity status in our culture and, more importantly, in my kitchen?

    think about it.
    also: left-over enchiladas for breakfast. medium-to-warm temperature. breathtaking.

  6. I twitter. I do about 20% lifecasting, and the rest mind casting.

    I can sum up my twitter experience by saying it (and other social networking) has changed my life. I recently attended a conference of like-minded individuals that I would usually wander into and out of each day; but because I had these electronic relationships the experience of the conference was much, much richer. The relationships were already formed, and it was like connecting with old friends.

  7. tonybkim Says:

    Great thoughts and god things to wrestle with. I also wrote a article about how ‘temporary’ this technology is but our need to embrace it now:

  8. Twitter is the fastest way to get information about a variety of topics. You can get instant news, connect with friends, and get expert opinions all in a matter of minutes.

    One of my favorite features is having access to the customer service departments of numerous companies. Have a problem with a FedEX delivery – tweet it, bad restaurant experience – tweet it. Often you will get replies within minutes.

    Another great use of twitter is being able to learn from top CEOs and other online marketers. Its a great experience to be able to have a twitter “conversation” with the CEO of Zappos.

    Lastly, twitter is exceptional for seeing web trends. The best way to track what is popular on the internet (or in life) for that matter is to look at the hashtag directory. That is available here:

    Definitely a growing market for companies to connect with their user-base.

    And besides all this, its just fun :)


  9. […] great conversation was sparked last week after Mark blogged about the ways people use Twitter. It seems like a lot of people are trying to figure out their Twitter philosophy, event organizers […]

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