Twitter and journalism: my view on George Packer’s so-called “Twitter attack”

I’ve been busy the last couple of weeks, so I missed some things. That’s not a problem. The world doesn’t stop turning if you miss out on something as a blogger. It doesn’t stop turning if you don’t blog for a while, and it surely doesn’t stop turning when you stop blogging or everyone else on this planet stops blogging.

It does get increasingly polluted though and there are lots of unhappy creatures, including human beings, on it. George Packer, who inspired me for this post, I’m sure, met a lot of unfortunate people. However, still the world doesn’t stop turning.

So, one of the things I missed was the famous article (at least, famous on Twitter and in ‘social media expert’ opinions) by George Packer about Twitter. As you probably know, unless you were doing other stuff like me, there was a whole fuzz about what Mr. Packer, who is an experienced journalist, to say the least, wrote about Twitter.

He was under attack in several blogs, on Twitter and even in the blog of the New York Times. I just read George Packer’s post. What does the man say? That he was shocked by an article by David Carr in that same New York Times.

“Twitter is crack for media addicts”

That he was frightened when he read that “There is always something more interesting on Twitter than whatever you happen to be working on.” I do not really agree with that too, by the way: if I’m writing a poem (a hobby) it’s at that moment the most interesting thing I do.

George Packer also wrote that “Twitter is crack for media addicts” and that he “thinks he couldn’t handle it”. 

Finally, Mr. Packer seems to worry that he won’t be taken seriously because, well, he’s not really a, let’s say “digital technology fanatic”.

Frankly, I don’t see what the fuzz was all about. I don’t know Mr. Packer personally, but if he doesn’t want to use Twitter that’s perfectly fine. I like to read a good piece of investigative journalism, and I don’t care how the journalist worked to write it, and if he used Twitter or whatever.

It seems that Mr. Packer is mainly afraid of the information overload and the endless stream of opinions, news, conversations, etc. that are going on on Twitter. It’s obvious Mr. Packer hasn’t used Twitter. And my word of advice to him is to use it now and then. If it’s not to talk to people, then maybe to just share his thoughts and maybe allow people to comment and learn from these comments now and then. Like Bill Gates did when he was “under attack” regarding the SEO of his new blog. 

But Mr. Packer does not need to use Twitter for me. I like to use Twitter to chat, dig up interesting stuff, share, get to know people and even find partners for the things I do. But that’s me.

There is no law that says you need to be always online and ‘connected’

I think there is a big misconception regarding Twitter and social media as a whole. That you have to respond to everyone and everything immediately. 

I guess Mr. Packer is human and so are the other Twitter users. We only have 24 hours per day. We should try to sleep some of them, spend some to be busy with the kids, eat and relax. Plenty of hours to work and the rest is up to whatever people like.

OK, some of us use Twitter to inform the world when we’re eating a burger. That’s fine with me. Live and let live, you know. I personally don’t feel that urge, but I like to connect with the people I interview, who read my stuff, whose stuff I like reading, who are fun and so on. 

But if I don’t get on Twitter for a week the world won’t stop turning. As a matter of fact, no human being or technology should ‘Stop the World’ as Mr. Packer’s post is titled. And why would you stop it? Get off it because things go too fast? I know thousands of people who are perfectly happy without ever having used a computer in their life. They don’t want to stop the world.

By the way, Mr. Packer and I haven something in common. I quote him: “I don’t have a BlackBerry, or an iPhone, or a Google phone, and I don’t intend to get an iPad”.

I have an old mobile and some people have the number. I have never felt the urge to use it to tweet that I’m sitting in a train. I prefer to read when I’m sitting in a train or gaze at the landscape or see what other people are doing. I’m interested in people and I like to talk to strangers, also in a train. But I don’t want to tweet there or check my mails. If you do, again, that’s perfectly fine.

You decide how you spend your time. I like Twitter. I told many times before why. I also like other social media and I sure like blogging. I also like connecting and sharing. And I understand the benefits for businesses of social media and digital technology in general (namely that it can benefit both the customer and the bottom-line).

But I will never be ‘always online’. If anyone else is, that’s perfect for me.

The world won’t stop, why should you?

There is a life besides email, Twitter, social media, etc. Fortunately. And everybody wants to be unreachable now and then, as Mr. Packer writes. But when you ignore the fact that there are things like social media and Twitter, and you’re scared of using them, then you might miss out on a lot of valuable things and plenty of great people as I discover every day. People I would never know they even existed if it wasn’t for social media and Twitter.

Maybe just one word for Mr. Packer if he would ever read this. I’m a bit surprised that you write about things you don’t know the first thing about because you haven’t tried them.

Of course you are free to think, say and write what you want but as a (be it marketing and technology) journalist I think (and I hope) I never wrote about something that I didn’t try or see or where I didn’t find a reliable source. That would be unverified hearsay. Just like the hearsay about Twitter you have based your article on.

And, on the other hand, to many young journalists I know: copying and pasting a press release you find online is not journalism. And always cite your sources, even if it’s someone on Twitter.

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