the national interest

Why Tina Fey Should Join Twitter

30 ROCK --
Most of those magazines are probably boring, too. Photo: Ali Goldstein/NBC

Tina Fey took to her video blog to field a question about why she does not use Twitter. She replied with a comic rant about how Twitter is a useless compilation of uninteresting people saying things she doesn’t care about:

This seems to reflect a failure to understand what Twitter is and how it works. It’s true, as she says, that “most people are so boring they should shut up.” But that is true of any medium. Take newspapers. Most newspaper articles are boring as hell. The overwhelming majority, in fact. Newspapers are filled with stories about how the lake ice in southeastern Wisconsin is unusually thin this year or updates on port development in Eerie, Pennsylvania, or random profiles of a guy who tunes pianos in Casper, Wyoming. Then you have hundreds of newspapers that aren’t even written in English. There might be a story I’d like to read in this paper, but I’d never know because the whole thing is written in Magyar.

Fortunately, when you read newspapers, you don’t have to scroll through content randomly. You pick the content that interests you.

Twitter is like that, too.  The overwhelming majority is total crap. But you don’t follow the overwhelming majority. You just follow people you find interesting. And I realize Fey is being funny here, but the premise of her rant is totally mistaken in a way that seems common.

If you’re Tina Fey, maybe you follow your colleagues in the comedy world, and maybe you follow your favorite writers, too. Do you like reading Ezra Klein? I like Ezra Klein. Everybody likes Ezra Klein. I suspect even the people who hate Ezra Klein secretly like Ezra Klein. He’s very well informed! So I follow Ezra Klein on Twitter, and if he (or any of the writers tilling the soil on his burgeoning blog empire) writes anything, he’ll send the link out on Twitter, and also share some interesting observations. So if you’re watching, say, a presidential press conference or something, you can use Twitter to watch it along with Ezra Klein and other the people you pick to follow.

Now, it’s true that some of the writers I like also use Twitter to make boring observations about that night’s football game or entertainment award ceremony, and they should stop doing that, because writing “Wow” when Tom Brady throws a touchdown pass is not what I’m paying them, or not paying them, to do.

Like Fey, I started with a distrust/misunderstanding of Twitter, but quickly found it to be a super-efficient system for filtering out the crap I don’t want to wade through on the Internet and delivering the stuff I want to read, written or recommended by my favorite writers, to me. I also like to use it to trade quips. I’ve quickly grown addicted to it. I’ve seen enough writers go through the process — hate Twitter, get reluctantly dragooned on to it, discover you can’t live without it — that I attribute basically all hatred of Twitter to a lack of familiarity.

So — please join us, Tina Fey! I promise you’ll love it. Twitter isn’t complete without you.

Why Tina Fey Should Join Twitter