(picture from Twitter: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly)
(from Is Twitter TOO good?)
The biggest benefit most people seem to be deriving from Twitter is the ability to feel more connected to others. Carson Systems' Lisa put it this way in a comment to Tara Hunt's defense of Twitter:
"Twittering fills in those gaps...recording our friends’ feelings, geographic location and actions as if we were spookily almost there. That makes us feel *really* connected..."
Is this really a good thing?
Probably, yes. For most people, perhaps. But I think it's worth a critical look as opposed to an automatic connected-is-awlays-implicitly-good response. UCSF neurobiologist Thomas Lewis claims that if we're not careful, we can trick a part of our brain into thinking that we're having a real social interaction--something crucial and ancient for human survival--when we actually aren't. This leads to a stressful (but subconscious) cognitive dissonance, where we're getting some of what the brain thinks it needs, but not enough to fill that whatever-ineffable-thing-is-scientists-still-haven't-completely-nailed-but-might-be-smell. He didn't make this claim about Twitter... I attended his talk at The Conference on World Affairs, and he was addressing e-mail, chat, and even television (brain recognizes it's looking at "people", and feels it must be having a social connection (GOOD), but yet it knows something's missing (BAD).
(from Adbusters, February 2007)
Forty year old Joyce Vincent had been lying dead in her London apartment for two straight years before the badly decomposed body was discovered by her landlord in April 2006. The story, quietly tucked away in British newspapers, profoundly upset readers around the world who saw her isolation as a failing of modern communities. As one outraged blogger put it, “Two years. She lay there. Alone, dead, unnoticed, and unmissed. How is it possible that in a city of about seven million, not one person noticed that a neighbor, sister, cousin or friend was missing?”
If you're not online, does anybody know you exist?