Duncan Gillies: No time to witter on about Twitter

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For someone who doesn't do much, has achieved so little and whose only real current ambition in life is to keep writing this column until I can buy a new surfboard, I don't have a lot of free time.

That is probably due to my tangled internal wiring. My mind is overloaded with messages. As a result I am easily distracted and don't get a lot done.

I think that, and the fact I don't have a long list of friends, is why I don't understand the attraction of social networking.

Now, I'm not saying sites such as Twitter or Facebook are a waste of time. I am sure it has enabled people all over the world to track down people they once knew and rekindle old friendships.

Just this month the Queen got her own Facebook page.

I'm sure she must have gone to school with people who have sat up many a night thinking: "Now what was Elizabeth's last name? She always spoke with such a posh accent. I'd love to track her down and see if she ever amounted to much."

Now there is a movie on the founders of Facebook, called The Social Network.

As far as I can tell, it's the story of some university students who create a website that halves productivity in the workplace but makes the students super-rich.

Not a feel-good movie in my book. The story may have a good message for the average office worker who spends 2000 hours in front of his computer screen every year, but any film that ends with people becoming billionaires leaves me feeling bitter.

Twitter is even more of a mystery to me. As far as I can tell, all it has done is turn the world into one giant classroom where everybody is calling out and waving their arms hoping to be heard.

And when they finally get the teacher's attention all they can say is something like: "Just seen The Social Network. What's that all about?"

Actor Ashton Kutcher is the king of tweeting. He has 6 million followers and is using Twitter to make the world a better place. In much the same way he does with movies such as Dude, Where's My Car?

This month he told an audience at the United Nations headquarters in New York that Twitter and Facebook could be powerful tools in the fight against human trafficking.

I guess he hopes once human traffickers sign up, he'll bombard them with so many tweets they won't have time to do anything else.

To be fair, it is hard to fault Kutcher's intentions. He told the gathering: "I can use Twitter to implore men around the world to understand that buying sex isn't cool."

The thing about Twitter is it's all about being followed. Kutcher has 6 million followers but is only following 610 people.

Rapper 50 Cent has 3.5 million followers but only follows 23 people.

I just wonder where all this is going. People once got upset if you texted a friend at the dinner table.

Now you fire off every passing thought in the hope as many people as possible will find it interesting. No doubt Apple is already working on the iThink, which will allow users to transmit their thoughts as they form.

I might come around one day but for the moment the fewer distractions I have the better. Otherwise I'll never get that new surfboard.

* Duncan Gillies is the Herald's foreign sub-editor

- NZ Herald

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