Some of the most perceptive writing in the blogosphere--or between hard covers, for that matter--comes from the keyboard of Nick Carr, author of Does IT Matter? and of the Rough Type blog. Here he weighs in on Twitter, which he calls "the telegraph of Narcissus":
Like so many other Web 2.0 services, Twitter wraps itself and its users in an infantile language. We're not adults having conversations, or even people sending messages. We're tweeters twittering tweets. We're twitters tweetering twits. We're twits tweeting twitters. We're Tweety Birds.
I did! I did taw a puddy tat! [half a minute ago]
I tawt I taw a puddy tat! [1 minute ago]
Narcissism is just the user interface for nihilism, of course, and with artfully kitschy services like Twitter we're allowed to both indulge our self-absorption and distance ourselves from it by acknowledging, with a coy digital wink, its essential emptiness. I love me! Just kidding!
The great paradox of "social networking" is that it uses narcissism as the glue for "community." Being online means being alone, and being in an online community means being alone together. The community is purely symbolic, a pixellated simulation conjured up by software to feed the modern self's bottomless hunger. Hunger for what? For verification of its existence? No, not even that. For verification that it has a role to play.
Read my own take on Twitter.