Monday, March 21, 2011

Inviting Coworkers

That two-word sentence fragment above – the title of this post – is the first tweet ever tweeted on Twitter, by its founder Jack Dorsey, five years ago today. Jack was inviting his coworkers to use their smart phones to join him in his new short-message service.

Not exactly “Watson, come here, I want you”….or “that’s one small step”…..but, history-making nonetheless. From that first tweet grew a business so big it’s worth, some say, upwards of 8 billion dollars. Not a bad 5-year growth. There are approximately 140 million tweets a day. Easy to remember, since if you are a twitterer, you know the message is limited to 140 characters.

There are neuroscience researchers, notably Mark Underwood, who say Twitter is making us dumber. Any simpleton can tweet; some tweets are amazingly clever and enlightening; some are simply dull and boring, like mine. Underwood and many of his colleagues say most people think it’s important to multi-task, but they say the “multi” part of the tasking is way too shallow. Writing a tweet at work while having your Facebook account up, talking to a co-worker, and scanning e-mails is indeed multi-tasking, but the tasks are all shallow endeavors. Underwood says the cognitive load placed on our brains from trying to deal with a number of shallow tasks prevents meaningful stuff from being filed in our long-term memory.

Hence, Twitter is making us stoopid.

Researchers like Underwood say the constant shallow mindwork re-wires the brain and limits its ability to process more complex information. We don’t have to memorize anything any more. With GPS, smart phones, google, mapquest, and so on, we don’t exercise our ability to memorize things. You can look up most anything in a fraction of a second. So we don’t concentrate.


Shallow thinkers like Sarah Palin can hide behind Twitter. Have you noticed how often the MSM (that’s “mainstream media”) actually use Palin’s tweets as news content? Pretty damn easy to spout off about anything in a 140-character message, which is not subject to follow-up questions from a reporter, as during a real honest-to-journalism interview. But we all know Sarah’s history with those pesky reporters.

Do I tweet? Yes. But my stuff is shallower than Palin’s. My most recent tweet was about my wife walking the dogs this morning. (You can follow me @MadiMan.)

And this post exceeded the Twitter limit by 2,319 characters.

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