Today, Twitter is celebrating what Grammar Fascists are likely lamenting: The five-year anniversary of Twitter. That’s right – back on March 21, 2006, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey posted the very first Tweet, which simply read, “inviting coworkers.” Since then, the social networking site has become the home of celebrities’ self-promotion, political endorsements, embarrassing proclamations – but, mostly, misspellings. Now, at five years old, we ask: Has Twitter become the death of grammar? Or just the rise of the haiku?
With every new generation comes the fear of a decline in intelligence, thanks to some technological innovation: TV rots youngsters’ brains, videogames distract kids from their studies, chat rooms encourage teens to publish thoughts without any sort of revision. And when looking at a sampling of tweets on Twitter – a social networking site that forces users to squish their automatic thoughts into just 140 characters – it’s easy to place the company in that group of “breakthroughs” that invite plenty of finger-wagging. It seems unavoidable that one would sacrifice an apostrophe or comma for the sake of finishing a thought. And if adolescents are consulting Twitter on a regular basis for updates from their favorite celebrities, why wouldn’t they be expected to join the misspelling masses?
Then again, there is an art to Twitter, as evidenced by some of our favorite writers who have embraced the innovation. Even the most ardent of Twitter dissenters have to admit there’s something fascinating – and respectable – about celebrities and Tweeters that can draw in fans with terse posts. If Six-Word Memoirs can be published by SMITH magazine, why can’t we see the art in Twitter’s one-sentence commentary? Look, for example, at the pages of Roger Ebert, Michael Ian Black, and Mindy Kaling – all boast witty discourse that somehow manages to fit in Twitter’s 140-character constraints, and gives fans the (often very true) perception that they’re entering into conversations with some of the most intelligent talent the industry has to offer.
So, because of that, I say a very happy birthday, Twitter. And we shouldn’t be afraid – let’s embrace our talented Tweeters and wave off the ones who write in all caps without punctuation, just like we did back in the chat room days. But what do you think, PopWatchers: At five years old, is Twitter to fear, or not to fear?