In the New Statesman, A. C. Goodall writes that Twitter is really bad. She doesn’t make any arguments, she just says stuff. “Twitter is all about fitting in.” “Twitter functions as banally as a school hierarchy: who to like, who not to, who you’re allowed to criticise, who you can’t etc.” “Twitter relies on people’s desire to be the same.” Like that: assertions without evidence.
To which I reply that Twitter is a platform and a medium, not an organized and coherent body — it’s not like a book, for instance, which can be said to have a single overall character. Imagine what you would think if someone said, “Email is all about fitting in.” Or “The telephone functions as banally as a school hierarchy.” Or “The telegraph relies on people’s desire to be the same.” Media platforms are what you make of them, and the history of each reveals that its makers expected it to have a relatively narrow set of uses and were surprised when people exercised their creativity to find remarkably varied uses.
In fact, it’s not enough to say that different people use Twitter in different ways: one person may use it in different ways. On Twitter I talk sometimes to my fellow literary academics, sometimes to my old American Scene friends (largely about pop culture), sometimes to my fellow soccer fans, sometimes to friends from church — and those are all different kinds of conversations, with different tonalities and shades of intimacy or distance. I find this fascinating. We need a modern Mikhail Bakhtin to write about the speech genres of Twitter.
Oh, by the way: Goodall has a Twitter account.
(P.S. Just to prove my point, take a look at what just showed up in my Twitter feed.)