No, Twitter won’t destroy civilization

My Twitter home page. Look for me @copiousnotes.

My Twitter home page. Look for me @copiousnotes.

The video service Hulu, we are told in its advertising campaign, is “an evil plot to destroy the world.”

That might be — he says, having been sucked into hours of watching ­reruns of Saturday Night Live and WKRP in Cincinnati.

But to listen to some people, you’d think Twitter was the one pulling the planet apart, 140 characters at a time.

David Letterman was at least ­honest in his dressing-down of ­Twitter on his April 24 show: “When you don’t ­understand anything, and you’re ­frightened by things, then you make fun of it, you ridicule it, and that’s what I’m doing. I have no idea what it is, but I’ll tell you this: I don’t like it.”

Funny — and funnier if you saw Dave deliver it in his cranky-old-man fashion.

It’s more annoying when you hear clueless comments. For instance, on NPR’s Weekend Edition on April 26, This I Believe co-producer Jay ­Allison compared his series of essays about faith to several Internet upstarts: “I think that separates it from Twitter and blogging and Facebook. It’s not a chronicle of what’s happening in that moment. It’s something that’s gathered over the course of an entire life.”

Yes, but neither I nor ­anyone else I know of has ever equated jotting a quick note with writing a memoir.

Lumping Twitter with an essay, or even ­blogging and Facebook, shows a ­fundamental lack of ­understanding of what ­Twitter is — and of the ­curiosity to find out.

(By the way, NPR has a Twitter account, churning out headlines on a regular basis.)

It’s not that hard to learn what Twitter is. As Internet applications go, it is one of the easiest out there.

Essentially, you have 140 characters in a “tweet,” or a message, that you post for friends, family and followers to read. Posts can be pure text, or they can include references to other Web sites and pages or other tweeters.

In Twitter, you build up networks and communities by following people and letting them follow you. The people you follow show up on your home page with their latest tweets. So essentially, you’re learning all sorts of things about other people’s lives and interests.

People use Twitter for a variety of purposes.

There are ­complementary applications, including ­Twitpic for photos, and Tweetwhatyoueat for people who want to keep track of their diets through Twitter.

But the use that probably strikes most outsiders as the most vacuous is simply ­updating one’s status with life’s boring details: “Just got out of bed, making ­coffee,” or “Having lunch; ham ­sandwich.”

Most of the 335 people I follow on Twitter aren’t that detailed or mundane in the information they share, thank goodness. (Watch: Now I’m going to get a bunch of tweets like “eating a cookie.”)

They tend to share more relevant information. For ­instance, last weekend, ­Twitter had a steady stream of tweets out of the Kentucky Derby from places as official as the National ­Thoroughbred Racing ­Association and Churchill Downs, as well as regular folks tweeting their ­experiences, their Derby picks and other stuff.

Some of the information was ­disposable, some was interesting and useful.

Last week, as developer Dudley Webb and ­Lexington Vice Mayor Jim Gray got into a dust-up about the CentrePointe development in Urban County ­Council ­chambers, a group of ­tweeters shared real-time commentary and information.

News has broken on ­Twitter numerous times. When a horse died April 25 at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, I learned of it on Twitter from someone who was there. During the ice storm earlier this year, Twitter was an essential tool in keeping up with what was going on around the city.

I use my Twitter account (@copiousnotes) to update regional and national arts and entertainment news with what are essentially headlines or links to stories. Other Herald-Leader bloggers — including sports columnist John Clay (@jclayiv) and mommy blogger Heather Chapman (@mother_tongue) — use their Twitter accounts for similar purposes.

Are tweets deep thoughts, lifetime statements? No, and I don’t think anyone who uses the service thinks they are.

Twitter is not a forum for extended, thoughtful writing, and it’s not meant to be — though it can lead you to some fairly meaningful stuff.

And Twitter is most certainly not going to destroy the world, but Hulu … I don’t know about those guys.

Must. Watch. SNL.

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