A Good Day’s Busy Work

Here’s a rant. Thanks to the power of randomness and that old ‘my ears were burning’ sensation, I somehow happened across a comment on a blog the other day in which my Twitter habits were called into question. The remarks, which were about me only in part, contend that “although [Khoi] hasn’t Twittered in months (again), he’d be worth following if he ever embraces the medium.” Well.

First of all, I’m flattered, really, that anyone considers what I have to say interesting enough in any medium to lament my absence from it, which is one way I interpret what this commenter meant. However, my other interpretation goes a little something like this: “Khoi is not keeping up with his busy work. Tsk. Tsk.”

Work for Idle Hands

In my defense, my Twitter habits are actually quite respectable. (In fact, that link came to my attention via another user after I posted about this critical comment on, yes, Twitter itself.) The frequency of my tweets is by no means torrential, owing mostly to the fact that during the workday I am in fact working and usually find myself unable to compose and compress my thoughts into 140 characters. But my Twitter rate is not exactly anemic, either.

Actually, defending my reputation is not really the point of this blog post. What I mean to say in fact is that this is all leading somewhere I’m not quite sure I’m comfortable with. The commenter on that blog, I’m sure, meant nothing malicious in his mild criticism. However, to me, his remarks inadvertently illustrate a sinister side effect of social networking: it’s never enough. What does it mean, exactly, to “embrace the medium”? Apparently, it means a compulsive dedication to what essentially amounts to busy work: checking in with your followers or friends repeatedly and often, authoring bursts of quasi-communiqués at all hours of the day, continually updating your statuses, tending a limitless onslaught of friend requests, managing an unyielding firehose of housekeeping tasks. It just means spending a lot of time just wasting time. And not just that, but it also means creating all of this busy work for other people, too; creating or updating or inputting more stuff for everyone to read — or more accurately, for everyone to feel they have to keep up with. We’re all blindsiding ourselves and one another with trivial obligations.

Excuse me while I go and post this to Twitter.



  1. Yes. Imagine if you will if Picasso or Michelangelo were alive today, twittering or blogging.

    I prefer to think that if you’re doing anything at all interesting, there will be plenty of non-doer’s at the ready to write about you. So go do your thing, make history, and let the others write about it.

  2. Now come on. You can’t seriously suggest that fulfilling your work related obligations and subsequent fiscal realities is of more importance than time spent on the condensing, focusing and delivery of your artistic and creative thoughts into 140 words of social media/networking noise?

  3. I’ve only just started with Twitter, and I think the rate of your tweets is fine, easy to keep up with and more meaningful. I followed another designer for a while, but his tweets took over everyone else’s and a lot was meaningless or moaning. Less is more applies everywhere.

  4. CEO: Your comment was marked as spam because, well, it looks like spam, what with all the all caps and quotes. I nearly left it like that but I decided to publish it because I actually found it kind of amusing. It’s actually a fair and somewhat interesting comment; next time don’t be such a coward about it and use your real name instead.

  5. Social networking is a great thing, but it can consume someone’s life.

    I think the people who complain that other people don’t Tweet or use Facebook enough are probably the ones that are so obsess with social networking that they forgot how to talk to real people.


    Oh, really?

  7. Khoi, I appreciate your post and must say that I’ve “fallen victim” to this very thing. I’ve made a conscious decision to check no more than 3x/day and quit my twitter app after checking. It’s a fun service but certainly has the potential to become a sinkhole on the road of productivity.

    On a positive note; I’ve found that if you restrict whom you follow to a quality few (relatively), you’re likely to discover quality resources via their posts (i.e. posted links).

  8. The irony will be that Khoi’s Twitter followers will probably double in number after this post.

    In any case, I find twitter and twittering an enjoyable but hardly essential activity. For me it’s like Facebook with out all the million other features. I get to see what my friends and colleagues are up to without digging through 10,000 requests to take a quizzes and join this or that group.

  9. Nice article. You not posting enough? That’s crazy!. I un-follow anyone who posts more than 3 times within an hour, no matter how good their postings are. I think one post a day is acceptable. What’s not acceptable are those who never post anything, or those who posted like mad for weeks and then stopped posting 2 months ago.

  10. Khoi, while some people want a torrential downpour of twitter updates I actually tend to check how often some updates before following them. If they update too frequently I don’t bother because I just don’t feel like dealing with an overwhelming number of tweets. Also,Chris Johnson is right, I just started following you.

  11. Man, nothing makes me more angry than when people phrase commentaries about social media as moral imperatives, and for some reason Twitter in particular seems to bring out that sort of thinking in a big way. I got a lot of that same attitude when people started following the account for my *unreleased* app months ago and complained in replies that it wasn’t worth following because I wasn’t saying much. What blew me away was that I hadn’t promoted the account at all or *asked* anybody to follow it yet (again, the app had yet to be released and I was mostly using the account for beta testers)–these people were just acting like I had a responsibility to amuse them and I was letting them down.

    I think this is a very strange way of looking at things. I would never criticize someone for not tweeting enough or insinuate that they don’t “get it”–I would just assume they’re busy lately, it’s not their thing, whatever. But I think it’s pervasive among social media “experts,” fans, and the like.

  12. I’m not sure why people are acting like Twitter is the first time an invention has been used inanely. When motion cameras were invented, they captured images of people flexing or getting punched in the face. Sometimes we have to allow a new medium an initial grace period for us to figure out how we should implement it into our lives. The Iran conflict seems like the first time Twitter has been recognized as potentially having a place in society. I wonder if Twitter would have an ounce more respect if it had a different name. The word ‘twitter’ matched with an image of a bird looks like child’s play, maybe even engenders it.

    A Twitter account can replace a diary for those who lack the disciple to sit and write (I include myself in that camp). Even if you tweet about eating a great omelette, at least you can look back and remember one moment in your life, however fleeting it may be.

    For someone like Khoi, NOT involving himself with Twitter would probably generate just as many harumphs from the peanut gallery. It’s quite possibly a no-win scenario.

    A lot of these social networking sites are at an impasse. The clash of Twitter and Facebook has warranted many ridiculous applications that manage both simultaneously. Much like trying to mend a pipe joint, it will work for a while, but eventually the whole thing will need to be replaced. (I’m talking to you too, print vs. internet)

  13. And the cycle begins. Recently everyone I know goes through this little cycle: blog – blog+twitter – mostly twitter – damn I’m wasting 4 hours a day on twitter! – mostly blog. Don’t get sucked into it.

  14. Khoi, I think the amount you tweet is perfect. Just enough so that when you do, it’s a pleasant surprise. I unfollow people who tweet too much. I mean, sheesh. Get over themselves already!

    Mr President, on the other hand? Well, my two Weimaraners complain that he doesn’t tweet enough. And god knows, we know he has time during the day to do it….

  15. Very well said Khoi. This is something that I have been feeling for some time now. It started as I tried to use Plurk when it first came on the scene. I constantly felt a “pressure” to keep my karma score high all the time, or least I “lose my social standing” and some how become less of a person. I am not saying that anyone else put this pressure on me, but rather I put it on myself.

    So instead of being social, my twitter habits have become more like a job. I can’t remember any of my friends paying me to hang out with them. 😉

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