What’s the most beautiful thing about Twitter?
Where were you when Stephen Fry got stuck in a lift? It’s unbelievable, but we are now more than a decade into the Twitter era. Just this past Sunday (3 February 2019), Stephen Fry tweeted that it was a decade to the day since his moment of elevator confinement, when he took to this funny new social network named Twitter to communicate with the outside world whilst trapped. Twitter seemed a real oddity back then, Fry notes:
“People thought I was mad to use such an odd service. Who knows, perhaps they were right…”
In 2019, Twitter remains as odd as ever. The thing that makes Twitter “Twitter” is still just as hard to pin down. Just this past Saturday (2 February 2019), Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey offered his own take on the social network, in his fascinating appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast.*
Dorsey is just as surprised as the rest of us at how Twitter has evolved and become entwined in the fabric of the modern world. Starting from the way first @ handles and then hashtags took off, Twitter has constantly surprised its creators with the directions in which it has taken them. He says that the public and Twitter itself have dictated the way this idiosyncratic social network has developed. I was surprised by Dorsey’s rather lyrical turns of phrase when contemplating what Twitter is and what it means to people.
For Dorsey, Twitter is a mirror on the world as it is right now. Twitter is “so reflective of what the world is and what the world wants to be,” he says. He says that Twitter is unprecedented in its enabling of public conversations that cut across all geographical and social barriers. I was particularly struck by Dorsey’s argument that Twitter approximates our own thought processes. Dorsey says:
“It’s so close to thinking. There’s no composition. That to me is the most beautiful thing about Twitter.”
When I tweeted these words from Mr Dorsey, I received interesting responses from my friends Ami and Nicky:
Twitter will continue to evolve, in ways that will continue to surprise us all. I am sure that it will remain just as odd and, in its own way, just as beautiful.
Gentle reader, what is the most beautiful thing about Twitter for you?
* In this post, I am focusing only on Dorsey’s words about the positive characteristics of Twitter. There is of course a significant and major dark side to Twitter, which I do not deny exists. My friend Ami Rao wrote compellingly about just some of the more problematic aspects of Twitter on her blog just a few weeks ago. Dorsey’s appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience is certainly not without its flaws. While aspects of Twitter’s dark side were mentioned, they were not covered extensively. A great many contentious topics were not addressed at all. Joe Rogan has issued a new video on this topic (below), and has stated on Instagram that Jack Dorsey will make a return visit to his podcast in the near future, to cover “censorship and deplatforming” and other topics. I look forward to it.