The latter. I’m not crediting the average Facebook post with any tangible evidence of cognitive ability, but I remain adamant that most tweets actively make their readers substantially less intelligent, even ignoring the sorry state in which the person who typed it must have been.
This article was inspired by a recent – relative to two weeks ago, when I started writing this piece – news report on the first vicar to begin using Twitter. Well, not quite. In fact, one of the interviews on Sky News regarding the issue was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Well, not exactly. Actually, 19-year-old church intern George Lightwood exhausted my last ounce of Twitter-related patience with this judgement, given in an interview during the same news report:
“My generation doesn’t come to church because they think it’s just old-fashioned and outdated, and that’s what they think of God.
“They think, ‘Oh church is really boring,’ so they think God’s boring. So obviously if they see a church that’s more with the times, where we’ve got Twitter so it’s a bit more interactive – people will be encouraged to think church is more relevant for me.”
The presumption here is that students only regard something as important if it features prominently on Twitter. If that was indeed the case, we would have a horrific sense of prioritization as a species. Imagine the conversation Mr Lightwood would have previously anticipated with a godless social network junkie:
“Did you know that the almighty Judeo-Christian God crafted this very planet and all life on it from absolutely nothing? He could do just about anything you could possibly imagine without so much as breaking a sweat.”
“Much as I’m convinced by your statement, I find this sky wizard tiresome. If you’ll excuse me, I wish to know what Jessie J’s impressions of life as a 24-year-old are. Ah, she finds it odd that she’s halfway towards being 48, which seems old to her. How droll. You can see yourself out.”
Now it would seem that church sermons and theological debates are joining ranks with anecdotes and well-wishing as additional forms of human interaction that have become uniformly half-arsed.
I decided to get to know my enemy, in order to further prove my point. After carefully crafting my username (@WhatAboutSatan if you’re interested, though I won’t be using it any longer), I was confronted with the irrepressibly patronising Twitter Teacher. I decided to engage with him, despite my scepticism. His opening gambit was as follows:
This is a Tweet. Tweets are short messages that have up to 140 characters and can contain links like http://twitter.com.
And so it began.
I was next forced to “follow” a host of public figures in order to receive permission to spout. The suggestions given included Katy Perry, James Corden, Alan Carr, Fearne Cotton and Peter Andre. I was at first indignant: how dare these trolls assume that these are the people from whom I would most likely want to be force-fed tidbits of idiocy? I soon realised that there was a trait that linked these individuals – they were all placed on Earth by Satan. Certainly, the reviled figure of evil incarnate would delight in the opportunity to keep tabs on his favourite minions, to ensure that they were continuing in their relentless endeavour to rid mankind of all capacities except that of self-destruction. Judging by the five minutes I spent following Peter Andre, they’re hard at work.
This process was repeated twice, presumably because the Twitter Teacher was adamant that I liked Katy Perry. Why else would I be on Twitter, after all? I decided to like Facebook, Myspace, and even Bebo, out of spite. Somehow, I feel the internet won that round. In the end, my ‘page’, as it could conceivably be named, was plastered with uninteresting cognitive farts, and not much else. The effect is the same as that which results from liking innumerable Facebook pages, except without the illusion of interactivity.
The only distinctions I can really make between the two sites is that on Facebook you can communicate with friends to an effective degree, and on Twitter you can pretend to be sharing in an incredibly facile and truncated virtual dialogue with some faceless pop star or other who has had 1,000 number-one hits written for them, all of which are thinly veiled allusions to sex. I’d much rather have Mark Zuckerberg selling my personal information to companies which regularly prey upon directionless A-level students than read the constant stream of advertising and self-aggrandisement that accounts for the overwhelming majority of content on Twitter, because the former is much more discreet. I’m aware that I’m just as much a product on Facebook as I am on Twitter, but at least Facebook facilitates useful and interesting messaging, and it’s a much better tool for organising any given event as well.
I should stress that Facebook should only really be used when absolutely necessary, and that I’m not responsible for any Facebook gaming addictions that might arise as a result of this article. If you can’t drag yourself away from Farmville, there was something wrong with you to begin with.
I also realise people will argue that the Arab Spring was underpinned by Twitter, but aside from immediately countering that with the UK summer riots of 2011, which were if anything underpinned by social networking sites to a greater extent, I would insist that there is no problem in the Middle East that Twitter realistically has the power to solve when it is dominated by such gems as these, from Kanye West:
There are so many broken systems from the economy to school systems jail systems… we need experts for this…
We need scientist and top world designers to directly affect governments.
Admittedly these were but two of roughly 50 tweets to be posted on January 5th by the lyrical mastermind, as a result of his decision to literally (in the single correct sense of the word) gift his life story unto mankind. This read from bottom to top, naturally.
Although the rest of the world may never benefit from anything Kanye West ever says or writes, I would like to extend my personal thanks to him for solving the dilemma that is my choice of career. From this day forward, I intend to focus all of my conscious effort towards attaining the lofty rank of “world designer”.
Well, to be fair to Mr West, he could have been making a clever reference to Slartibartfast from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If nothing else, he highlights evidence of a “broken school system” perfectly.