Thinking and Twittering

I’m trying hard to figure out Twitter. Find me at SFscribe to offer some pointers if you’d like. I get it, but I don’t think that I get it. Not like people say that I’m supposed to.

Everyone speaks and everyone listens, just none of it to any of the same stuff. It just strikes me as terribly chaotic, a point that SF Gate columnist Mark Morford made well recently. Twitter is like the blogsphere on speed, and I’m barely able to grok personal blogs (as this blog testifies to). We’re hyper connected, just not to each other.

As a longtime newspaperman, I appreciate the common narrative. It’s how communities grapple with their problems and make decisions. Newspapers might strike some as presumptuous in trying to set the public agenda, but someone has to, and I’d rather it be teams of professional, public-spirited reporters and editors than groups of corporate flacks or political hacks.

I don’t have a pony in the race. When I’m trying you about some important political issue, it’s simply because I want the world to be a better, fairer place. It isn’t because it benefits my bottom line or my personal ambitions. I get paid a flat salary and don’t advance professionally with the outcome of any vote. Hell, the country has only gotten worse on my journalistic watch, but I’ve done good work that has led me to one of the few good jobs left in my profession. I don’t get a percentage of anyone’s take.

But in the eyes of many, I’m interchangeable with the bloggers. Nevermind that I do reporting, and that I’ve developed good working relationships with those in powerful institutions, or that I have a demonstrated history of stressing those relationships and pushing hard for the truth when the public interest is at stake. No, what seems to matter most is wordplay and connectivity.

Frankly, I find it dizzying to be too connected. Infomania clouds my thinking rather than sharpening it. Patterns and influences develop over long periods of time, and they’re best interpreted by understanding history, being curious and skeptical, and then wrestlng with the intersection of events and ideals on the printed page. And that’s my problem with Twitter: it just doesn’t seem to help me think.

P.S. Shortly after posting this entry, I found myself in a controversy involving Mayor Gavin Newsom, me, and Twitter. Read this and this to learn more.

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