Contrary to popular opinion, Twitter isn't reporting on Iran or the Swine Flu or calling people names. Twitter didn't cause Iran's supreme leader to call for an <a href="">investigation of the election results</a>. People did that.

Michael Hickins, Contributor

June 15, 2009

3 Min Read

Contrary to popular opinion, Twitter isn't reporting on Iran or the Swine Flu or calling people names. Twitter didn't cause Iran's supreme leader to call for an investigation of the election results. People did that.Robert Scoble, Marshall Kirkpatrick and others of their ilk have been waxing poetic about how Twitter has become the greatest thing since Dan Rather:

Yesterday is the day when Twitter thoroughly beat CNN. Badly beat CNN. Embarrassingly beat CNN. And most other USA-based media too.

Kirkpatrick correctly takes CNN to task for featuring the switch from analog TV signals rather than covering the contested election, but it's quite a leap from there to endorsing the idea that "'Tienanmen + Twitter = Tehran.'" The correct formula is "Tienanmen + Iranians = Tehran."

Bloggers like Kirkpatrick also deserve credit for forcing the witless traditional media to take note of what was being said on Twitter -- the news being broadcast, not the wisecracks about #CNNFail.

Twitter is getting poor reviews as well: Nine Inch Nails front-man Trent Reznor is giving up on social networks because "it's now doing more harm than good in the bigger picture and the experiment seems to have yielded a result. Idiots rule."

That the segment of fans he calls Metal Sludge is reflected in online forums seems to have caught Reznor off-guard.

So is the fact that Twitter is becoming quickly subverted by the same people who brought us pop-up ads and spam email.

Reznor (no stranger to selling in his own right) huffed that, "we're in a world where the mainstream social networks want any and all people to boost user numbers for the big selloff and are not concerned with the quality of experience."

But is Twitter at fault because Dell is using it to drive bargain-basement sales?

While it's become axiomatic that the medium is the message, the messenger is also changing, only slower. Maybe Twitter and Facebook will change us in time, but as of right now, we're still the same humans, flawed and awe-inspiring as ever.

Andrew Sullivan hit it right on the head, giving credit to the people rather than the technology:

The key force behind this is the next generation, the Millennials, who elected Obama in America and may oust Ahmadinejad in Iran. They want freedom; they are sick of lies; they enjoy life and know hope.

Twitter is what people make of it; this is perhaps the single greatest distinguishing feature of Web 2.0 as a whole, and the biggest single gift we bequeath to the Millenials -- as users, we control our own experience. We follow or block whom we want, and we join or leave groups at will. Twitter doesn't make us better people (nor does it make us worse).

But when I think of Twitter (or any other social network for that matter), I think about that kid from Minnesota who called Harvey Milk because he was alienated and suicidal, and I realize that today, he doesn't have to feel that way because he can connect to a whole community of people as easily as if they were at the coffee shop downstairs. Because the messenger, not the network, is the message.

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