Twitter Won’t Make Us All Stupid

Today, Barry Ritholtz wrote a small piece where he wonders if Twitter will make us all dumber.  He writes,

I occasionally use it. I appreciate the instantaneous communication of micro bursts of info, but cannot help but wonder if its part of a culture of dumbing everything down. All nuance, all subtlety, all fine lines of discussion get lost in 140 characters.

Barry is someone whom I have tremendous respect for, and having seen him lecture on technology, think he understands the web, but I believe that he is wrong on this.

One characteristic that is unique to human intelligence is writing.  Many animals talk, but only humans write.   Compared to verbal communication, written communication requires an extra layer of thought and contemplation.  The written word has shown over time as a superior medium through which to pass information and knowledge.  From the printing press to the internet, it has been a catalyst for the evolution of intelligence.

So while a tweet is not the same thing as a blog post or essay, it still is written communication and allows for a deeper level of thought beyond its verbal equivalent.  Moreover, Twitter is more accessible to the masses as it takes less time and is more conversational.

While he is correct that there are some levels of knowledge and understanding that cannot fit in 140 characters, Twitter gets more people writing (thus thinking) and in the long run I believe that makes us smarter.


  1. marissa

    everyone i follow is dumb, though. 🙂 good post. i agree that many updates are thought provoking and a good user considers what he/she posts. it’s all in who you follow, i think.

  2. I agree with the author. I also think that 140 characters is very limiting and therefore more thought of how to structure a message to get the ideas across forces users to think and rethink of how to arrange their story no matter how dumb the message is

    • zerobeta

      I agree. There are too many pointless words used these days. Twitter forces you to be terse – which is a good thing.

  3. Ben

    We often confuse more degrees of freedom resulting in more meaning. Dumb tweets are no different to dumb blog posts / facebook updates / myspace entries. There are plenty in every category.

    It’s down to the author and their intent – to infuse as much meaning and content as they desire.

    IMHO, there are similarities in tweets/blog-posts etc to presentations. If you have an hour on a topic, you don’t have to crystallise your thoughts as much as if you only have 5 minutes in which to communicate your key points.

    So yes, I agree that Twitter forces ppl to put thought into their tweets.
    Therefore no, I don’t think Twitter alone is making us stupid.

    • zerobeta

      Exactly. Think how much information you can put into a well-crafted metaphor that transcends 140 characters. It’s a new medium and not for everything, but its a refreshing, concise format in a world of corporatespeak, newspeak, and other meaningless drivel.

  1. 1 Thursday links: panic buying Abnormal Returns

    […] Is Twitter making us stupid?  (Zero Beta) […]

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