October 4th, 2010

Owing to a few unforeseen circumstances I had to get off Facebook and that left a huge void in my life. No amount of magazine reading or foreign movies or indie music (heard Arcade Fire’s latest?) was able to fill this void. Like North Korea, my life too was turning into a black hole. At the suggestion of a friend whose political views are questionable, I joined Twitter and it has been liberating, to say the least.

The very fact that within 140 characters I need to get my point across lends so much literary heft to that old saw “brevity is the wit of soul” (Emma Thompson be damned). If Facebook is about people you are friends with, Twitter is about people you want to be friends with. Twitter has people whose work I respect and unless pigs fly at regular intervals I am not going to meet them in my lifetime. Twitter tells me what’s going on in the mind of Susan Orlean or Margaret Atwood. My joy knew no bounds when Bret Easton Ellis tweeted about the same music that I was listening to.

Yes, there is a fair bit of jingoism like the Ayodhya hashtag when every Indian is supposed to wait for the verdict. But hey this is far better than the numerous Facebook groups that go viral within no time. While Facebook was always about me where I had to keep a new status update or update at least one picture every day, Twitter allows me to indulge and still allows me to appreciate the tweets of the people I follow.

In fact, your state of mind can be gauged by the kind of people you follow. The literary types follow New Yorker and Granta. Those who swear by Mother India definitely follow Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Tharoor, Rajdeep Sardesai. The Bollywood crazy haven’t arrived on Twitter unless Priyanka Chopra, Shah Rukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan are on the “you are following” list. No, the last kind doesn’t mind the ten exclamation marks that are all-pervasive in these movie celebrities’ vacuity-personified tweets (most of them).

In the latest New Yorker issue, Malcolm Gladwell pooh-poohed Twitter’s ability to alter public perception (case in point: recent Iran elections where Mousavi’s supporters tweeted Ahmadinejad’s alleged machinations). Economist even had a headline that read “CNN-0, Twitter-1”. Gladwell notes that weak-tie networks don’t have the dedication and structure to take on an established power structure. Martin Luther King, Jr, he says, had a one million dollar budget and 100 staff members on the ground when he got to Birmingham.

Alexis Madrigal, a technology writer for The Atlantic magazine, counters Gladwell: “Even if we said that no current effort rises to the level of a sit-in, I wouldn’t bet against powerful movements developing through social media over the next decade. People are still learning how to organize online.”

At a time when Sensex is flirting with the 20,000-mark, I would say that I am bullish on this blue chip to scale all possible heights on the social network bourse. digg:Twitterrific newsvine:Twitterrific reddit:Twitterrific Y!:Twitterrific