#Tweet ergo sum

Cogito ergo sum. Or, in René Descartes’ original French, Je pense, donc je suis.  In any language, “I think, therefore I am” is arguably one of the most powerful and eternally relevant philosophical propositions ever made, put forth 380 years ago in Descartes’ Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences. While it forms a secure foundation for knowledge in the face of radical doubt, it begins with acceptance that some knowledge can be figments of imagination, deceipt, or error. It then asserts that doubting any knowledge – even doubting one’s existence – serves as proof of the reality of one’s own mind. There must be a thinking entity – in fact, the self – for there to be thought. Cogito ergo sum, indeed.

And then there’s Twitter. That adorable little bird, one of the world’s most recognizable logos, not to mention the communications badge of honor of 330 million users (Q3, 2017), is doing its best to mount a challenge to Decartes’ infallible (?) syllogism. “I tweet, therefore I am.” So aren’t we all just thrilled about the recent expansion from 140 to 280 characters? After all, say the good folks at Twitter, a longer character count allows users to express more of their thoughts without running out of room. How considerate!

Now wait a minute. Descartes got the immense thought in his long, dense discourse – 50 pages or so, depending on the edition – down to three words. Oops…sixteen characters (25 in French). Who needs 280?

So this is, ipso facto, controversial, given that Twitter was recognized early on – by The Library of Congress – as the first major cultural communication change of the 21st century. Why? Brevity. Yet in one poll, two-thirds of Twitter users fear that 280 characters won’t make Twitter better to read, just more time consuming. Not better, just more.

Sound familiar? Where have we seen that disappointment before? Remember when cable TV arrived? TV – that “vast wasteland,” of Newton Minow’s brilliant 1961 analysis – was supposed to get better with cable. It didn’t. We just got more TV. Not better, just more.

In most every situation, more does not mean better, and in almost as many, it usually means exactly the opposite On top of all this, Twitter says that in trials, only one percent of tweets hit the new 280 character limit, compared with only nine percent of tweets when 140 was was it. Nine percent? And for this they doubled the capacity?

OK, here’s why I’m ranting about Twitter in this Career Coach column. First, let me admit that I tweet – irregularly and infrequently. (Impulsively is more like it.) I harbor no delusions that your life is better because of my tweets, nor would it be worse if I discontinued. So, I try to write something pertinent and brief. That’s it. If it’s meaningful to you, fine. If not, fine. But I write nothing personal, controversial, or edgy.

So, for example, the one tweet that got more views and likes than any other I ever sent was when I mused: “Every box of raisins is a tragic tale of grapes that could have become wine.” Number two was: “When things seem hopeless, remember this. How far can you walk into a forest? Only half way. After that, you’re walking out.”

Now let’s project these into a job search, if I’d be running one. As almost all recruiters and hiring managers either do a social media search on you or pay outside firms to do it, I don’t think I’d be negatively affected, no matter who read these. They’re benign. At best, I hope they’d either amuse or inspire. That’s it.

But boy oh boy, is that not the case for so many tweets! I’m convinced that one job seeker I met (after the fact) was rejected for a job because of a string of tweets he’d been sending out: politics, personal likes and dislikes, social commentary, etc. – not to mention awash with misspellings and grammatical indiscretions that any sixth grader wouldn’t commit. And now he’s got twice the room to shoot himself in the foot. It gives one pause, does it not?

Back to Descartes, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t tweet – and here’s why. He was too busy proving his own (and our) existence through the use of his mind. Yet too many of us can only hope to prove our existence to others based on our tweets.

#Tweet ergo sum is a long way from cogito ergo sum.



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