Essay about Twitter: Twitter and similarly Mundane Dodgeball

Submitted By momowtich
Words: 682
Pages: 3

Twitter is the app that everyone loves to hate. Odds are you've noticed people — probably much younger than you — manically using Twitter, a tool that lets you post brief updates about your everyday thoughts and activities to the Web via browser, cell phone, or IM. The messages are limited to 140 characters, so they lean toward pithy, haiku-like utterances. When I dropped by the main Twitter page, people had posted notes like "Doing lunch and picking up father-in-law from senior center." Or "Checking out Ghost Whisperer" or simply "Thinking I'm old." (Most users are between 18 and 27.)
It might seem like blogging taken to a supremely banal extreme. Productivity guru Tim Ferriss calls Twitter "pointless email on steroids." One Silicon Valley businessman I met complained that his staff had become Twitter-obsessed. "You can't say anything in such a short message," he said, baffled. "So why do it at all?"
They're precisely right: Individually, most Twitter messages are stupefyingly trivial. But the true value of Twitter — and the similarly mundane Dodgeball, a tool for reporting your real-time location to friends — is cumulative. The power is in the surprising effects that come from receiving thousands of pings from your posse. And this, as it turns out, suggests where the Web is heading.
When I see that my friend Misha is "waiting at Genius Bar to send my MacBook to the shop," that's not much information. But when I get such granular updates every day for a month, I know a lot more about her. And when my four closest friends and worldmates send me dozens of updates a week for five months, I begin to develop an almost telepathic awareness of the people most important to me.
It's like proprioception, your body's ability to know where your limbs are. That subliminal sense of orientation is crucial for coordination: It keeps you from accidentally bumping into objects, and it makes possible amazing feats of balance and dexterity.
Twitter and other constant-contact media create social proprioception. They give a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination.
For example, when I meet Misha for lunch after not having seen her for a month, I already know the wireframe outline of her life: She was nervous about last week's big presentation, got stuck in a rare spring snowstorm, and became addicted to salt bagels. With Dodgeball, I never actually race out to meet a friend when they report their nearby location; I just note it as something to talk about the next time we meet.
It's almost like ESP, which can be incredibly useful when applied to your work life. You know who's overloaded —…