Twitter Has Killed Small Talk. (Or: Why We Are Less Interesting Than Ever.)

If you are like the majority of Americans — and I suspect that you are — you suffer from a severe condition that scientists typically refer to as “not being interesting.” I, myself, have more than two decades in the field, and after extensive research, I feel compelled to note that only a small percentage of Americans have anything useful to say.

A slightly larger percentage of these uninteresting Americans are, however, entertaining. But I should note: this condition is not the same as being interesting. This is the reason why people who become stars on YouTube are infrequently consulted when it comes to matters of national importance.

The problem is that we, as Americans, are quickly becoming less interesting. Naturally, I would like to blame Twitter for this decline.

Research shows that blaming Twitter for things is now the number one media pastime in America, just surpassing “baseball metaphors used in a political context” and “finding new excuses to subtly insult that woman on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ for her looks.” We, the media, love to blame Twitter, because those articles will soon be Twittered by potentially millions of people, which, in turn, should exponentially increase the size of our Twitter followings. There is a good reason why the number one most re-tweeted article yesterday was about the rise of narcissism.

Now, I have been using Twitter since the fall 1. I liked my first tweet — “attempting brevity,” I wrote — and little else. I’ve surpassed 1,000 tweets. I have potentially read thousands more. I cannot say that my life has improved as a result.

However, I do feel comfortable saying that I am less interesting than ever. There is a good reason for this: Twitter is killing small talk.

No longer do I have those go-to questions to ask friends; instead, I’m finding out the answers in real time via Twitter. And we, as humans, are not interesting enough to maintain small talk if you take away our most inane questions. Now that I don’t need to ask the basics — “So, how are the roommates?” or “Did the test go well?” or “Was that you I saw passed out face down in a pool of nacho cheese on 9th Street Tuesday night?” — I’ve been left with the cold realization that I’m not that interesting 2.

And the Twitterati will say, “Shouldn’t you have more to talk about now that you have access to regular snippets of information about friends?” Hypothetically, yes. Sadly, few of my Twitter friends are tweeting about topics such as the search for absolute zero. And even if they were, their tweets would just get lost among the avatars on my screen. Imagine that a formula along the lines of “E=mc2” was discovered today. Sure, it’d get re-tweeted 3, but only if Lindsay Lohan wasn’t currently trending on the site.

Look, I understand why Twitter users are so fanatical about the service. Information delivered on-demand from whomever you want is a pretty good deal.

But may I remind you: we are a nation — to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld — built on nothing. Now that we’re microblogging our nothingness, we’re emptier than ever before.


1.) I use Twitter as a personal news ticker to monitor what’s happening right now (or what happened in the last 15 seconds). I don’t scroll down to see old tweets. Anything that’s far enough down the page has probably been written about in a space that’s measured in inches, not individual characters. >back to article

2.) Completely unrelated tangent: Ashton Kutcher has a million online followers (though, for the sake of this comparison, I’ll add these words: “per month”). The New York Times has 20 million monthly followers. So why does Kutcher get more publicity? Maybe if The New York Times had a “followers” or “articles published” counter on their homepage, people would take notice. >back to article

3.) “RT @aeinstein: OMG this is WAY bigger than relativity!” >back to article

UPDATE: Jason Kottke defends Twitter for its banality.

H/T to Robert Scobie for the image.