Remember blogs? Oh, sure, there are still plenty of active and beloved blogs rippling through the interwebs. But as many of us find ways to compress our lives into 140 characters or less the traditional blog (seems odd to use the word "traditional" next to "blog" but there you go) seems to be losing some steam. It used to be that the media would quote politicians who posted on their Web site or refer to what a celebrity wrote on their blog. Blogs were (and can still be) THE place to find unfiltered analysis. These days, if you want to find a following or spout your observations to the masses, then you likely head to Twitter. But is all this linguistic distillation making people more concise or less thoughtful?
I must admit that I've been paying more attention to my Twitter account (shamelessly: @siebergd) than my blog in recent weeks. Oddly, though, I'm still reading just as many blogs as I can get my eyes on; unless it's someone I really respect or a fellow colleague or a family member I don't go out of my way to read random Twitter feeds or even sign up to follow them. Is this the 21st century version of reading a physical newspaper versus an aggregate site? Perhaps. In any case, like most Twitterers, I've gone head-to-head with 140 characters and deleted an adjective or two to make it fit. (By the way, why do we adhere without question to such an arbitrary limitation?) And while the appeal of Twitter varies by user it clearly provides a handy release valve for our respective opining.
But I wonder what Twitter's popularity says about human nature, me included. Certainly, we appreciate a specific target or goal. At times, writing a blog can seem daunting and take on the feel of a homework assignment. But Twitter essentially says, "Stop, you're done. 140 characters. That's all you need to write." And what about the lazy factor? Blogs require more work, consideration, and even a little (dare I say it) research. With Twitter, it's possible to appear active and busy with a series of short posts that, well, often don't really say much at all. But firing them off can leave us feeling like we accomplished something (often self-promotion, self-reflection or self-aggrandizement). Plus, having a numeric value represent our "followers" on Twitter can turn the whole endeavor into a boost to the ego. With blogs, you never really know how many people are reading.
A blog provides more information, but Twitter is easier to fit into our increasingly busy lives. Arguably, more satisfaction is derived from writing an in-depth blog, but Twitter allows us to get right to the point. Blogs offer more perspective, but Twitter forces people to refine their thoughts. (I'd also point out that to condense words into a 140-character limit there's a strong chance that spelling has paid the price.) Is there room for both to co-exist online? Of course. But as the interest in Twitter goes up, it's worth taking a look at what it's doing to other forms of communication like blogs, and what that means to a media sphere that's becoming more about headlines than context. Without apology, this blog is 3,149 characters (with spaces).