I can’t help but feel Shepherd’s entire Twitter argument is misguided.
Twitter is, in a lot of ways, a glorified RSS feed. You, as the user, are entirely responsible for what is going to show up in your feed. If you want it to be dispensing up-to-date political and social news, then it’s a pretty simple process to follow (insert your favorite news sources/journalists/hacks) and there you go, that’s the sort of information you’ll receive. If instead, you want superfluous commentary, links to LOLcat pictures, or a reason to immediately stop using Twitter… well then I’m right here.
Shepherd (2009) claimed that Twitter users “are also encouraged to participate instead in the economic cycle of value by shoring up the consumption of celebrity” (p. 154). In my opinion, this statement undermines the user’s control over the information that is being funneled into their feed. As per our assignment, I followed 10 new twitter accounts focused mainly on journalism and social media. And for the last two days, my feed has pretty much been permeated with links to news articles and “how-to” guides focusing on better utilizing Facebook and blogs. Imagine my surprise when I hadn’t received a single Justin Bieber update. Way to let me down, Twitter. (Although to be fair, #Brazil<3JustinBieber is totally trending right now. No, I did not make this up.)
So yeah, Twitter is going to be what you make of it. You can use it to follow and participate in a variety of different dialogues by merely searching for the appropriate accounts, following them, and @replying away. You can use it for microblogging or helping people to find your work. You can use it for figuring out which countries currently ❤ you and which </3 you. You can even do all those things on one account. What a crazy world we live in! But to simply dismiss it as a pretentious form of communication that caters to celebrity culture is shortsighted.
On a slight tangent, I was also somewhat bewildered at the hostile tone Shepherd takes at Twitter and their sinister plans for all my precious tweets. I particularly enjoyed the statement that “the site’s benevolent posturing works to conceal the key function of the ‘for now’ which indicated that Twitter will eventually seek to profit from its user content upon growing further in popularity” (p. 160). How dare they, those benevolent posturing bastards! But seriously, pretty much everyone with a product on the Internet uses Twitter as a free way to advertise and market themselves. It doesn’t seem particularly awful to think that, hey, maybe Twitter should get something too. Shepherd herself makes the point that currently Twitter is operating at a loss. Given that no concrete business model has been suggested that threatens a Twitter user’s generated content specifically, I thought she was being a bit rough on them.