When TweetDeck started to chirp like Lassie had fallen down the well, I could be assured something was up. Scoping my timeline, all my crew in the South Bay were announcing the arrival of an earthquake. As the 4.4. temblor rolled up the Peninsula, so too did updates on Twitter. With full minutes between my awareness and its arrival, by the time it hit San Francisco I was already outside with my pants neatly pre-shitted.
The Internet just warned me of an earthquake.
As fashionable as it is to make fun of Twitter, that kind of shitworthy notice is entirely new. Email, IRC, IM, Blog, Vlogs, Smogs, and Pogs – no other mechanic online or off would have gotten me outside or my pants appropriately prepared. Even a telephone call would take too long to connect.
The problem most people have with Twitter is existential. Brian Williams commented on the Daily Show “the answer to the question of what I am doing at any given time is just not interesting enough.” The fundamental concept of the microblogging format is fairly targeted as decadent and depraved; an egocentric, over-inflated platform for the pathologically self-centered.
But with brown underroos a full minute before the earth started to shake, I submit that search is Twitter’s real value. The user experience is not what is important – it is the result of that user experience spread across millions of users. Regardless of how pedantic it seems on the individual level, macrocosmically collecting in searchable format the immediate thoughts of millions of people is valuable.
Twitter is difficult to reconcile – it takes a fundamentally antisocial behavior and, by virtue of its aggregation, turns it into an entire social endeavour. It makes the natural inclination of the egocentric valuable to everyone.
Ultimately, I didn’t feel the earthquake out in the Sunset. But on my way to the laundry, I observed that I had never shit myself over the Internet before, and maybe that makes this newfangled trend something more than a fad.