Monday, 24 January 2011

The madness of twitter and poets

'The way in which people frantically communicate online via social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook can be seen as a modern form of madness, according to the leading sociologist.
Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writes in her new book, Alone Together: “A behaviour that has become typical may still express the problems that once caused us to see it as pathological.”'

This is from the UK Daily Telegraph website, you can read the full article here:

I think that Turkle is missing the point, what people are doing on social networking sites is writing. It may not be good writing but it comes from a desire to write and read. And to communicate through that medium. There is something about writing and reading that perfects communication, that makes it - in fact - poetic.

Wordsworthian reflection and recalled emotion may be a long way away from tossing down a status update; but healthy writers of all kinds think about their utterances and know it is once removed from reality. Bad writing, bad reading or malicious intent then is to blame for failures in communication.

It surprises me that sociologists bang on about this but then it seems such book titles and research always make use in the conservative press. It seems to be a result of a number of things including:
  1. Fear of mass communication - people shouldn't be allowed to talk to each other without control, they are too stupid or mad.
  2. Fear of the other groups - the working class, fundamentalists, lapdogs - are conspiring to find a voice and alter our perception of normal.
  3. A lack of awareness of literature - what about ballads, graffiti, letters and penny pamphlets and all the spontaneous writing of the past that stirred people up, and allowed stories, gossip, misunderstandings, new ideas to pass up and down countries and around the world; don't forget Walter Scott the Scottish writer had read American Washington Irving's Sleepy Hollow story before he met Irving in 1816! Global reading isn't something new...
  4. A fear of writing and most especially poetry - and that can never be a good thing; one strand of Twitter for example and the status update is that poets are best equipped to write it; and I guess that must be pretty scary for normal folks!


  1. Here's Turkle on The Colbert Report:

    Interesting interview - and funny too. In rather a nice irony, despite being face to face in her interview with Mr Colbert, Turkle does not quite seem to "get" his humour.

  2. Reading the Telegraph could be seen as madness too?

  3. Turkle and Telegraph ... a match made in paranoia...