The Pear Research study on Twitter will be remembered as the, “Pointless Babble” controversy.
The story was making the rounds all day yesterday: The research firm conducted a poll of Twitter posts during specific times, then qualified each post. They determined that 40% of what is posted is, “useless babble,” among other findings. (Read their white paper here.) Today, the news reports on this story are talking about the backlash of blog posts and Tweets from angry Twitter users, and how Pear Research doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Here are a couple of things to consider in all of this:
No one ever heard of Pear Research until this story. I have no doubt the study is gaining all of this attention because this recently unknown research company put out a report with language designed to enflame readers. At least I hope so – because the alternative is that this research company put out a report on a major social media player, and had utterly no idea how the social media community would react to it. The former suggests a cunning media savvy, the latter suggests a head buried firmly in a patch of sand. Pear Research, if the latter is the one that’s true, lie about it.
A lot of Tweets are “Useless Babble.” If they call it at 40%, fine – but we’ve all known for years that Twitter was a place for people to share anything quickly, so it stands to reason that a lot of it is going to be of little consequence. And why shouldn’t it be? This isn’t a Guttenburg press we’re tinkering around with, it’s a free service that allows us to post 140 characters of whatever we want. In fact…
A lot of Social Media is “Useless Babble.” I put it to you that all of social networking has this level of nonsense going on. Certainly I’ve never heard great kernals of knowledge coming from Myspace or Facebook profiles. That’s because all of these sites represent us, in the act of living. In the same way, our phone conversations and e-mails and letters (for those of us who still know how to send those,) are all chocked full of nonsense that are only important to the writer, and sometimes the intended reader.
It’s just social media, folks – it’s not love.
There’s nothing wrong wtih, “Useless Babble.” I would have been more concerned if 40% of tweets were, “useless gibberish” than “useless babble.” Reading that someone I’m following is, “making a sandwich” is certainly more engaging than, “nicto barflafla nord floon!” So count your blessings.
Furthermore, why should every post be manna handed down from the Gods, spoken from the lips of the Oracle at Delphi? With 6 million unique monthly visitors, nobody has anything important enough to say that would constitute “useful wisdom.” Frankly, we’ve had access to that kind of information on numerous web sites for years now. If that kind of access to information had been cutting it for everyone, we would never have taken to social media the way we have. We all wanted something else.
I put it to you, Pear – may I call you Pear? – that Twitter is indeed a bastion of useless babble, and that it is supposed to be. That you do not grasp the value of just blowing off steam in text form is not a problem for me, but does make me wonder if you similarly do not see the value of other pointless pursuits, like naps, reading fluff magazines, or eating chocolate. None of these things have motivated value or should be the center of anyone’s life. But they’re fun, and that makes them good. The same is true of some – or even a lot – of useless babble.
All of social media is whatever you make of it, and whatever you bring to it. Just as I defend the useless moments of Twitter, I also feel it has a great deal of use in exchanging important information, or keeping communication lines open with friends, colleagues, clients… and I’m glad you caught on to that kind of use as well, Pear. If you say the useless part is 40%, fine.
However, if you also feel that, as you put it, “Twitter is still loaded with lots of babbling that not many of have time for,” (your syntax error, BTW – second to last sentence,) then I fear you just don’t understand what the social networking revolution is, and frankly I wouldn’t be bragging about that quite so loudly.