Paris Hilton with a Blackberry

I’ve never really understood Twitter. I regard this as a weakness. All the coolest people seem to love it, and I can see how it’s a neat concept. I just wonder what I’d put: “Doing sudoku on tube”, “buggering up a lasagne”, “In meeting”, “reading in bed”. I’d bore myself.

Well I’m delighted to see that I’m not 100% alone in my luditeitude (I hearby create a new word!). This brilliant ‘Creating passionate users’ post by Kathy Sierra goes well beyond that initial suspicion that there’s something a bit freaky in it, putting a (very cool) name to a phenomenon I’d been quietly aware of for some time.

In the quite brilliant Perfect Pitch, Jon Steel talks about how constantly receiving and checking of messages can (temporarily) lower your IQ by 10 points.

We now know what it’s called:  “intermittent variable reward”. Or, in other words: behaviour which is rewarded/reinforced intermittently, rather than consistently – is the most difficult to extinguish. Or to really reduce it to simple terms, the addiction to email and Blackberries is similar to slot machines. As Patricia Wallace put it in Time magazine: “You are not sure you are going to get a reward every time or how often you will, so you keep pulling that handle.”

Not content with revealing the real reason for email addiction, Sierra goes on to explain the emotional dissonance that arises out of “virtual” interactions – although this is not necessarily a twitter phenomonen – it applies equally well to TV. The brain feels like it’s experiencing social interaction but is missing an element – body language etc, leaving the subject feeling disappointed and dejected.

Finally, Sierra brings in the concept of “continual partial attention”. Thinking-wise, what we as humans enjoy most is deep thought and processing. But what we do now is the opposite, we constantly pay partial attention to a huge range of inputs. We care more about not missing anything than about actually focussing on and achieving anything.

5 thoughts on “Twitier”

  1. Well we were expecting more Web 2.0 hype this year, and Twitter seems to be leading at the moment. Shame as it seems pretty useless to me. And Facebook has the same functionality already.

    But I don’t want to judge it without twittering myself so I’ve just joined. I’ll let you know how I can get on. Who knows, I may like it, as you said all the coolest people do!

  2. I have to admit that I love Twittering (add Darth Vader as a friend and see what I mean!) For me it gives me a chance to see quickly and simply what my friends, my real world friends for the most part, are doing. Because I spent so long in the States, this is perfect for us all. I go in and my Twitter makes me smile, we don’t talk that often but Twitter is the connective tissue.
    I have also been told by quite a few people that having a Twitter widget on my blog brings a different personality dimension to it.
    Who knows?
    I think that it is a fun way to pass the time and stay in touch and have a bit of a laugh as well.
    But Nic is right you have to give it a go and link up with friends

  3. […] If they can, it will be testament to their user-centred approach over MySpace’s feature loading. And what’s the feature that best matches a user-need? It must be matching users’ desire to feed the very noughties craving for continuous partial attention. […]

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