Twitter’s a trip, ain’t it? It’s the damndest thing: how can such a miniscule dose of 140 characters be a disrupter? Twitter is fast taking over the world in unpredictable ways. What was once a side project, a sort of laboratory experiment, has now seeped into the public domain and everyday more and more people are tripping tweeting. Twitter is influencing our culture in the same degree that LSD-25 represented a shift in cultural tectonics. And there’s no certainty about where the trip is headed.
- Time Distortion. LSD alters users’ perceptions of time. What seems like a minute can actually be hours. You can spend a whole day on Twitter thinking you only spent 20 minutes tweeting, only to find out the whole day’s gone.
- Mind-altering. Depending on who you follow and the links you click on, Twitter can be like a proverbial Rabbit Hole. Many users express alterations in how they interact with others online. They often claim to be exposed to new sources of information that they would otherwise never have encountered without Twitter. Just as mundane experiences can appear fantastic-plastic while on LSD, so too can the experience of otherwise trivial bits of information appear mind-expanding. The “kaleidoscopic play” of tweets and links can produce a peculiar heightened sense of altered consciousness. It is called Continuous Partial Attention.
- A Sense of Universal Connection. Users claim to be connected “in ways never felt before”. Whether on LSD or Twitter, users probably follow people who they otherwise would never meet, let alone “follow”.
- Units of Administration. LSD: microgram. Twitter: microblog.
- Formulation. LSD: blotter paper, sugar cubes, gelatin. Twitter: Web, TweetDeck, Seesmic Desktop, Tweetie, TwitterGadget…
- Routes of Administration. LSD: sublingual, intramuscular. Twitter: keyboard, mouse, cellphone, iPhone…
- San Fransisco. Albert Hoffman may have first synthesized LSD-25 in Switzerland, but San Fransisco became the colorful capital of the acid revolution. Grateful Dead’s address: 710 Ashbury Street, San Fransisco, CA 94117. Twitter Inc.’s address: 539 Bryant St., Suite 402 San Francisco, CA 94107.
- Bad Press. Twitter receives a lot of popular attention with stories focusing on its dangers. LSD faced similar publicity. Most of the bad press is founded on poor research and sensationalism.
- Celebrity Users. LSD: Cary Grant, Peter Fonda, Timothy Leary, Paul McCartney; Twitter: Shaq ( @The_Real_Shaq), Stephen Fry, Kelso (@aplusk), and now @Oprah (who as of yet, doesn’t seem to be much of a user). Both LSD and Twitter had their band of pied-pipers too: @ChrisBrogan and @Pstachio
- Claims of Therapeutic Use. LSD: has been, and continues to be, used in research. Twitter: user-claims that it can make you a better person.
- Threat to the Establishment. Many established institutions viewed LSD as a threat to national security, to civilization and as a corrupting influence on youth. Twitter received similar attention. Twitter, to an extent, is disrupting Google and traditional media. Even the US Army considers it as a potential tool for terrorism (which it may).
- Cultural Disruption. LSD changed how people dressed, communicated and perceived the world. Twitter is disrupting how people use the Web, how they communicate with each other and how they share their lives.
- Cult-like Evangelization. Proponents of LSD established cultish tribes of quai-religious proportions. Twitter users evangelize its benefits and often get upset when people outside their tribe “don’t get it” or bash the service.
- Communal Gatherings. LSD: Human be-ins. Twitter: Tweetups.
- Danger. Tripping in the wrong setting has gotten some poor souls killed, either by suicidal panic or lethal accidents while under the influence. On Twitter, some poor fools have lost their jobs.
- New Lingo. Just as LSD users developed their own vernacular, Twitter users have evolved their own twords.
- Unpredictable Effects. One never knows how someone with react to tripping or tweeting. A lot depends on personality, set and setting. An unfollow on Twitter could induce feelings of abandonment, despair and paranoia in some users.
- Brain Drain. The residual effects of LSD can last days after a twelve-hour trip. Users often report a sense of brain-drain. Twitter users often report similar experiences the day after tweeting for weeks on end.
- Distorted Sense of Self. LSD users often see themselves differently, either as an inflation of their ego-self or a deflation of self-esteem. Twitter can similarly induce feelings of distorted sense of self. For some a Retweet can be a peak experience.
- Users Appear Completely Insane to Non-users. When explaining the LSD experience to people who have never tripped, LSD users look like raving lunatics. Same thing with Twitter users.
- Words Don’t Adequately Describe the Experience. ‘Nuff said.
- Serendipity. The power of LSD and Twitter was discovered while working on an other project. Albert Hoffman was looking for a uterotonic while working at Sandoz Laboratories. On April 16, 1943 he accidentally ingested the substance and inadvertantly discovered its unusual effects, subsequently experimenting with its psychedelic powers. Evan Williams was looking for a collaborative tool while working at a podcasting company Odeo Inc. when he developed an idea for updating his friends.
- Rock Stars (Music). Yep, most rock stars where on acid. Look what NIN is doing now.
- False Promises of Paradise. Hunter S. Thompson on Timothy Leary’s flawed thinking on LSD: “All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit“. The pied-pipers of LSD sold the misguided notion that it could buy a ticket into a heavenly paradise. Whatever good LSD may have offered the world was mangled by the delusions that so often are induced by overhype. Twitter faces a similar challenge. The current wave of marketing gurus who promise marketing-salvation will prove equally disappointing to many. Twitter has a place in marketing. Unfortunately there will be many who don’t know where it is.
- The World: Never The Same. LSD, for good or ill, forever altered the course of history. It helped to loosen up a mostly uptight culture and came during a time of massive cultural upheaval. Twitter is loosening up (some) corporate cultures by breaking down the walls of insular cultures. It’s disrupting Google (Google “Pistachio” and find out what I mean). Twitter is changing the way we connect, collaborate and communicate. It’s also ushering a new paradigm for how we interface with the web. Just as LSD added another dimension to how we perceive things, Twitter is offering a new lens through which to view the web.
The purpose of this list is to have fun and not to condone the use of LSD or even Twitter. Both LSD and Twitter are potent agents of change. They each hold the promises and dangers of a brave new world. But let’s not take either too seriously:
Drugs won’t show you the truth. Drugs will only show you what it’s like to be on drugs. – Brad Warner
The same can be said of Twitter: it won’t show you the truth. It just offers you a new way to seek it out. But the effort has to come from you, not a drug or shiny new toy.
Twitter is our time’s LSD. Tune in, turn on and tweet out.