It should come as little surprise to hear that Ricky Gervais has quit Twitter after just one month and six tweets. After all, it would be hard to imagine the self-confessed (and not wholly undeserving) egotist getting everything he wants to say about himself down in 140 cringe-worthy characters. Of course, one of his characters – David Brent – might have interacted much better with society, and been much less funny, if he’d had a strict word limit. Gervais’s reason for tweeting his last, however, was that he finds the social networking and micro-blogging site ‘pointless’.
“I just don’t get it I’m afraid. I’m sure it’s fun as a networking device for teenagers but there’s something a bit undignified about adults using it,” Gervais wrote on his blog.
It goes without saying that 90% of what’s said on Twitter, much like 90% of what’s said in everyday conversation, is utterly inane rubbish that will be of very little interest to anyone other than the person writing it. I certainly don’t care what John Smith had for breakfast. I care even less that Emily Bloggs is going to see the sequel to Twilight tomorrow. And as for Dave Brown, well, I dnt cr at al 2 trnslt tht sntnc frm txt tlk.
Neither is The Office star the only intelligent adult to have failed to see the point of Twitter. Writing for The Third Estate back in April, Reuben said he found the idea of micro-blogging “horrific” and profoundly “self-centred”. Thankfully, however, Reuben came to see the error of his ways, and after a cunning bit of detective work by Owen, it was he who helped set the Twitterverse ablaze with the details of the Guardian-Trafigura gag. It didn’t take long for the rest of the lefty, and even the not so lefty, bloggers to re-tweet that one simple link and by the time Charlie Brooker, Derren Brown and Stephen Fry had caught on, the story was truly national, The Third Estate had gained 13,000 hits in a day, the gagging order was destroyed and a message was sent to big corporations up to no good that keeping something secret in the age of democratised mass digital media is not as easy as it once was.
The point is, Twitter ain’t just for kids. Like any kind of technology it is only as good or as bad as the people using it. Are aeroplanes evil just because two of them flew into the Twin Towers? Was it nuclear fission which killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima, or Paul Tibbets and the people who sent him there? Should we blame Gutenberg and the printing press for Mills and Boon, Melanie Phillips and Richard Littlejohn?
Of course, you’re never going to be able to use Twitter to make a grand philosophical treatise. But in a world of declining newspaper sales, where people read far too little and say far too much, it can be a powerful and perfectly dignified tool. A lot of nonsense may be written on Twitter, but it is only useless if you have nothing useful to say.