Jumping the shark, in modern parlance (or in geek circles), relates to an episode of Happy Days where Fonzie jumps over a shark on water skis and after this event it was deemed that the show went downhill. Every TV series jumps the shark, every exponent of popular culture somehow runs out of creative steam and outlives its welcome in this fashion.
When I was first introduced to the Internet back in 1996, I could instantly see the appeal – though I couldn’t envision the future we have now. Back then, things were slow and it was primarily a service that relied on great wodges of text to read, the very odd picture (though it would take minutes to download thanks to that crappy 33k modem) and very little multimedia.
The thing that instantly struck me was the ability to communicate simply and easily over vast distances. I became addicted to the early chat apps (though this interest soon waned as it grew popular and any attempt to engage with individuals was swamped by saddos cruising for anonymous, no-strings sex) and newsgroups were a great place to discuss music interests and computing problems. It thrilled me that you could self-publish your ideas relatively easily and give yourself a voice – so your hobby and interests could be shared with other like-minded individuals.
That was then. This is now. The Internet has naturally grown in popularity and increased access speeds means that we can access previously impossible multimedia files with ease. The idea of streaming live TV shows or downloading high quality movies in a second was beyond my ken back in 1996. I remember once downloading a three minute music file in WAV format that took something like three hours.
As the popularity has increased, the tools to self-publish on the Internet has increased – for example, this website is created using a content management system called Movable Type. In the old days, I had to code by hand and then it was editing code by FrontPage. So there is no reason why young and old aren’t unleashing their creativity on the World Wide Web. It’s just a matter of finding your niche and investing your time and energy into it. YouTube has been a breeding ground of new talent and you can find all manner of imaginative stuff on there. The same can be said of MySpace and music.
While the likes of Facebook and Bebo has passed me by: it’s hard to have a social network when you aren’t particularly sociable, I understand the appeal to generations young and old and as an effective method of communication. By now, you might have a glimmer as to what I am heading towards with the main thrust of this post.
For a while now, I have silently been observing the Twitter phenomenon and I can now state that: I just don’t get it! To me it seems as if two forms of communication have been spliced together to form a bastard hybrid. Texting and social network: an unholy alliance if they had ever been. No, actually that last bit is wrong because I think I have spotted the flaw in Twitter for me.
You see, Twitter is housed in the wrong delivery system: the world wide web. If Twitter’s home platform was the mobile phone and its currency were the text message, I think I’d understand it more. It would be a quick fire way of building up a network of friends and keeping in touch with all of them: simple. But the Internet version appears to me as a complete waste of time resources and is the web equivalent of standing in Trafalgar Square with a megaphone shouting 10 word statements about your day:
“Had eggs for breakfast!”
“Thinking of having a poo!”
“Don’t you think that twitter is a pile of old ….”
An appropriate logo purloined from the Skidnee website.
But then you’d have to also shout out replies that other people have shouted at you in order to validate their comments. So what Twitter does is create this completely one-sided, disjointed dialogue to no-one in particular. I’ve looked at Twitter threads and they work better when it is a monologue: with one person giving a single commentary, but when that person starts replying to other commentators it becomes like an experimental cut-and-paste beat poem syncopated by @ symbols. You cannot follow the narrative thread without jumping back and forth between twitter streams and soon enough you become lost pretty quickly.
Then there’s the whole stalker aspect that is a bit freaky. Gone are the idea of subscribers replaced by followers. Look so-and-so has so many people “following” him. I don’t know, it seems silly but that just doesn’t sit well with me. Does anyone really want to be followed, virtual or otherwise?
It wasn’t so long ago that comedian Dom Joly sent up mobile phone culture with his oversized handset and the echoing cry of “I’m on the train!” or “I’m in the library!”…well that’s Twitter that is. Except the mobile phone has been replaced by the Internet. Bereft of creativity and the craft of creating blog entries or getting your personality onto the page, the Twitter entry is just an exclaimation of the now. A pointless cry in the wildnerness. So when Stephen Fry was twittering about being stuck in the lift, he might as well had a giant mobile phone held to ear and been bellowing: “I’m stuck in the lift!”
So if you have any sense of craft or interest in using the Internet for creative purposes say no to Twitter. And like Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and Friendsreunited, it’s influence will slowly wane.

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