One of the most intriguing and most frustrating aspects of the “new media” is how foolish the stories become as writers search for meaning amidst the ocean of change and sea of drivel that makes up the modern information infrastructure aka “Them Dang Interwebs”.
Today’s foolishness takes the form of Jeremy Toeman’s article “It’s Official, Twitter is a Cult” where Jeremy manages to mangle the meaning of a cult about as many times as he invokes it in criticizing Twitter. Another article actually suggests Twitter is wreaking havoc with moral compasses but I’m not sure I’ll even dignify that nonsense with a read, especially because I find Twitter to be the *least morally offensive* of the many internet venues where I hang out.
Yo TwitterCritterCizers, when is the last time a group of your friends drilled a bunch of wells to give extremely poor people in Africa water? On Twitter the answer is “Last Saturday “, when the Charity:Water effort, funded by hundreds of thousands of small donations from Twitter folks, began a project to bring clean water to Africa. This act alone defies much of the cult charge since it is clearly benefitting people who are far outside the “Twitter” network and represents the opposite of a totalitarian, elitist approach to social interaction. But let’s go through the “Cult” charges one by one to note how backwards this analysis really is.
I’m harping on this partly becuase I’m a twitter fan / evangelist but also because the promise of social media is absolutely spectacular, and I think Twitter may come the closest to realizing that promise for a mass audience. Twitter and most other social media experiments represent humankind’s best effort to date to create broad based, non-elitist, participatory democracies and social networking infrastructures. Twitter *defies* the cult and elitist mentality that is still pervasive in legacy human interaction, especially in religion and politics where money, charisma, and connections completely trump solid qualifications and personal virtues.
At the risk of falling into Jeremy’s trap and talking about a stupid article, I really think its’ a good idea to debunk this mythology before the world comes to an end and only me and the glorious Twitter people survive the apocalypse , whoops…. I mean before it gets out of hand.
- It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members
Nope, in fact it’s hard to even talk about Twitter to friends, relatives, or readers of this blog who mostly think it’s silly. I like to evangelize blogging but don’t do that much with Twitter, and in Twitter land Twitter rejection is expected and OK. No cultishness in the “coercion” department.
- It forms an elitist totalitarian society
Ummmm. No. There are no real “kingpins” on Twitter. In fact the founders, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, are not even the most followed and don’t participate in Twitter all that actively with comments. Both are pretty mild mannered geeky guys who live modest lifesyles and largely shun the fame and personal power Twitter could bring to them with the simple act of more postings and calls to action. Furthermore, on Twitter you can follow anybody you care to, and many will probably follow you back if you don’t annoy them with appeals to buy things. This is called an “egalitarian society” and is the opposite of a totalitarian one.
- Its founder/leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma. Even the author of the article states this one is “a stretch”. A stretch to utter nonsense.
- It believes ‘the end justifies the means’ in order to solicit funds/recruit people
Huh? Twitter does not solicit funds or actively recruit people. It is free, it is open, you can leave, join, participate at your own whim.
- Its wealth does not benefit its members or society
First, it has little wealth at this time. Twitter’s looking to monetize its spectacular success and most folks hope they can do it, but one thing that is clear is that unlike cults Twitter won’t ask the members for anything – not even active participation. More importantly Twitter’s is getting used to generate a lot of money for *charities* and good works like the Charity:Water project listed above.
Conclusion: Twitter is not a cult, it’s a minor social miracle.
PS To avoid an untimely demise pass this Twitter propaganda on to 1000 of your closest friends and relatives and follow @joeduck at Twitter