In the UK in particular, Twitter has gone mainstream over the past few weeks. This has largely been due to Jonathan Ross (@wossy) and Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) both becoming keen users and discussing it on Ross's chat show. Radio 1's Chris Moyles (@obnoxious – oh, ok @chrisdjmoyles) has also been recruiting a new wave of followers. This meant every chat show, news station, newspaper and opinion writer has been talking about Twitter.
This means we've had a raft of pieces along the lines of 'I don't know why people would want to tell everyone what they had for lunch'. Sigh. Technology seems to be the only subject area where the journalist can display their ignorance as a kind of credential: 'You can trust my opinion because I have never tried this.' I would like to see the same principle applied to film reviews: 'I haven't seen The Reader, but….'
Anyway, that's as it's always been. Personally I've never got the whole celebrity thing, so them coming on to twitter doesn't bother me. Yes, I'm not even sure I like Stephen Fry particularly. Obviously there's nothing wrong with it, although I did briefly experience that feeling familiar to a teenager who has been following an indie band and finds they suddenly become popular. Just as print can give us Proust and OK magazine, so Twitter can handle a range of communication uses.
My beef with the celebritisation (that's not a word is it?) of Twitter is twofold: Firstly, I think if you're signing up for twitter to follow celebrities, you'll miss the point of it. A conversation with a celebrity is not a normal conversation. It is unequal, and this skews the conversation. But if that's what people want from their use of it, that's fine.
My second reservation relates more to the way the news, and society in general legitimises something. It doesn't matter if hundreds of thousands of people use something and find it useful, until a celebrity uses it, and this legitimises it. There is now something for journalists to hang their report off. This is just lazy as it means they don't have to actually investigate it – they can report around the subject.
A similar effect occurs with business – any technology is seen as frivolous until some 'gurus' start telling companies how they can make money from it. And then it becomes serious.
Here's the truth: YOU legitimise technology. Celebrities and business are a side-show.