At Researching Reform, we use the social media site Twitter, or micro blogging site as it is sometimes called, for work and play and to our minds, it is the best of the best in its genre. But not everyone agrees. As technology is so much a part of what we do here, we thought we would share an email conversation we had with a friend a little while back. Our friend, as you will see, is not impressed with Twitter. Could he be right? We’ll let you decide…

The McDonald’s of Conversation (Our Friend’s E Mail):

“I have been mocked on a number of occasions due to the fact that I read a daily newspaper (rather than the one pod) that is left of field in its reporting, and a tad hairy with tree hugging in its approach – you guessed right I partake in the purchasing and reading a copies of the Guardian, at length.
 
 
As a chap of good character (never trust anyone that believes and announces they are intrinsically good) I’m all for a good old laugh at one’s family, work colleagues, this country with its unremitting slate gray skies etc, but more importantly having the ability to find oneself funny or preposterous (self-deprecation) is an all important character strength. One of the reasons I read the Guardian is the need to have my hardwired conservative values continually challenged, but the main reason is; its ability (better than most UK papers but not as good as the International Herald and Tribune) to dissect the issue, argue in favour or against all points of view and essentially take the time for due reflection. This is why I like reading these particular newspapers and why I like dinner parties, so we have an educated opportunity to test our thinking, debate the real issues and potentially leave the subject with more than one opinion. The anti social aspect of the net and 140 word boundaries (fascists) will never allow for profound debate. 
 
Why I don’t Tweet as much as others is (1) trying to cover a subject or event live on Twitter—especially if you are a participant, as I have been (IMF)—doesn’t allow time to check facts or seek out an alternative points of view or think for more than a few seconds about what to say.  (2) There’s not much you can do when you make a mistake on Twitter, particularly if you are dealing with a complex subject. (3) Whist this social phenomenon has undoubtedly been very good (disputable) for modern-day democracy (think Egypt) it has equally created extremely volatile reactions such as the recent youth uprising in the London and the rest of the UK. 
 
Twitter is the McDonalds of conversation, the KFC of protest, the Nescafe of observation…
 
Observation and time is needed, more today than ever before, mankind is moving too quickly/life is far more complex – I worry the important stuff is being missed by our ever-increasing need to consume huge amounts of data/information, which is usually very poorly reported. In-depth review and observation is being lost and I’m worried. 
 
But then I love bookshops and paperbacks (you guessed it I don’t have a kindle)
am I  old-fashioned or is it more likely I prefer the quality of time to think, to view, be wrong, to observe, to listen for more than 20 seconds…???”

The World’s Greatest Library (Our Reply): 

Twitter can be the many terrible things you suggest, filled with angry voices, trolls, fascists (and I include feminists), marketers, the misinformed, racketeers, fraudsters and flippant attention spans, but it is also a place filled with intelligent voices, analysts, liberals, meticulous minds, real-time heroes, sellers of sanity, forward-thinking savants and freedom of expression. I forgive it the bad, enjoy analysing it and revel in its speed (which can be frozen at the click of a button, capture or link). 
 
I am a 140 Character Courtesan. I like the challenge of trying to be immaculate under stringent limitation. But if I want to extrapolate, I can link to anything my heart desires, like a blog post, where I can write as much or as little as I wish. It’s my compact world, my needle’s eye, in which I can pass a camel if I so wish and is my portal into many worlds. There is nowhere else on Earth where I, or anyone for that matter, can pull off such astounding magic.
 
If it were not for Twitter, I would not have over 2,000 readers for my rather unimportant blog, or manage to engage key stakeholders for the work that I do. Twitter allows me, anyone, to connect to the big boys and gives unknowns like me the chance to sail my project out to sea and float ideas to people who I would never otherwise be able to reach. My Twitter world is an oasis of people I work with, friends newly made and old, and opportunities that for the most part appear infinite. 
 
I would therefore disagree that Twitter is the Fast-Food of the media world, or somehow lacks in depth and knowledge. To my mind,Twitter is the library of the world, offering people the opportunity to truly read whatever they wish, for free.  (Yes, I belong to Generation Y, who are for the most part neo-liberals when it comes to information sharing). You just have to know what you’re looking for and how to find it and if you don’t, that’s ok, because Twitter, like the great librarian that it is, will help you find it.
 
But do I think we should forget the old ways and that they no longer have anything to teach us? Not at all. One of the things I believe in strongly is that as a species we really need to remember the past and make sure we carry it with us, not to look back, but to combine the present with it, so that we can build a better future. And I would apply that to social media and new media advances generally.
 
Everyone has their perception of where they draw the line with technology. I don’t ever want to live in a world where 3D interaction is a simulated experience. I want to feel and cry and be messy emotionally; I don’t want to feel my body through a latex suit or make love to an android. But that’s me. Maybe in the 25th century, people will ‘feel’ differently.
 
The Guardian is my favourite poison of choice, but I try to read as many papers as I can to get an overall understanding of what’s going on and how people are reacting and I agree with you about the International Herald. 
 
I like bookshops too. For all sorts of reasons. I have a thing for the smell of books (they closely resemble the smell of my favourite flower, Iris, or actually Orris root, which has this watery, earthy perfume to it), and I like the visual feast of a bookshop. You can just pick something random up as many times as you like and surprise or annoy yourself with your choice. I do have a Kindle though, largely because I was worried that my cynicism for that kind of reading was preventing me from enjoying something relevant. It’s got loads of advantages. I can carry hundreds of books with me, all in the weight of a mid-size paperback. It simulates page turning, which is comforting and it has the most amazing functionality (you can tweet passages to your friends, never lose your place, look up words, highlight and annotate etc, the list goes on). The only thing about it that bothers me, is the feel. And not being able to physically see how far you are into the book (although there are very clever gadgets on the Kindle for that too, including percentage measurements, page numbers and ratio tools). But I still prefer the way a book feels in my hands.
 
So. Bring it.