Twitter: False feeling of connectedness, or great way to deepen bonds?

On/Off SwitchKathy Sierra posted a nice rant about Twitter. I wouldn’t necessarily agree, but she makes some good and valid points:

Twitter scares me. For all its popularity, I see at least three issues: 1) it’s a near-perfect example of the psychological principle of intermittent variable reward, the key addictive element of slot machines. 2) The strong “feeling of connectedness” Twitterers get can trick the brain into thinking its having a meaningful social interaction, while another (ancient) part of the brain “knows” something crucial to human survival is missing. 3) Twitter is yet another–potentially more dramatic–contribution to the problems of always-on multi-tasking… you can’t be Twittering (or emailing or chatting, of course) and simultaneously be in deep thought and/or a flow state.

Her points about the intermittent variables is actually pretty scary, since true:

From a Time magazine feature story on multitasking: Patricia Wallace, a techno-psychologist,…believes part of the allure of e-mail–for adults as well as teens–is similar to that of a slot machine.
”You have intermittent, variable reinforcement,” she explains. “You are not sure you are going to get a reward every time or how often you will, so you keep pulling that handle.”


Also, who doesn’t know the feeling of not getting anything done because you get interrupted keep interrupting yourself (or allow yourself to be interrupted) by phone, email, RSS? Anyway, I’d guess that’s something anyone has to decide on their own at some point – the question: How much connectedness is right for me? Personally, I’m a big fan of being mostly-on, i.e. being online most of the time, but taking pretty radical off-times when there’s need to go really deeply into something. But this is constantly changing, too. So if you’ve found the perfect way of balancing your (probably contradicting) needs of connectedness and privacy/calm, please share in the comments.

However, Tara Hunt posted a great defense declared her love for Twitter, and somewhat more convincingly so:

One, twitter is a great way to keep your stream of consciousness, errr… in lack of a better term: archived. We don’t want to forget the things we had on our minds, but blogging every thought we deem relevant at the time is prreeeetty time-intense, too.

Two: “Twitter is incredibly useful for tracking my activity. For me, twitter was also very useful when assembling my receipts for tax purposes. A couple of receipts I had forgotten to write the name of the person I dined with and what we discussed. My calendar didn’t reflect the meals, either, as both were spontaneous…as referenced through Twitter posts. Twitter, basically, helped me with my taxes.”

Three, twitter helps keeping track of friends: “I may not get enough time to spend with my amazing friends these days, but I certainly know what they’ve been up to, thanks to Twitter. (…) The next time I see someone, I’ll know what they’ve been up to, so we can go from there instead of playing catch up.”

Four, twitter helps creating a deeper bond with acquaintances. “I’ve gotten to know many people better this way and, even though they are non-personal sms messages that are under 140 characters long, they seem to say more about people than many blog posts or emails or even in-person conversations (as some of us are nervous or apprehensive when we first meet people, where twitter creates a level of inhibition in many).”

Well put. Agreed, 100%. (Except for the tax part, that is – haven’t finished my taxes yet, so I can’t tell for sure.)


Do I think Twitter creates a false feeling of connectedness? Nope, I clearly don’t.

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