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Pirates Being Swept By The Astros, Or The Intellectual Wasteland That Is Twitter: Which Is Less Depressing?

Is there anything sadder than putting up a total of 13 hits in a three-game series in Houston? How about checking in on the last of those games while arguing with people over what "retweeting" is? Too bad the Pirates ruined a perfectly nice start by James McDonald tonight. The weird thing about this horrible, horrible series is that the games were all actually pretty competitive for a while, despite the Pirates' lack of offense. The Bucs held the lead into the seventh on Monday, and then Charlie Morton kept them in the game for the first five innings on Tuesday, and then McDonald tonight ...

You know what, forget it. Let's talk about Twitter. Dejan Kovacevic ended up sending what seemed like about a hundred tweets in response to my update in the John Bowker thread below. And, as is usually the case when one of us gets angry with the other, we dealt with it over email, and we ended up having a civil, reasonable conversation about Tim Alderson's value at the time of the Freddy Sanchez trade, Sanchez's role in the Giants winning the World Series, and the quality of the Pirates' front office's trades.

Can you ever have a discussion like that on Twitter? No, you can't. I mean, I have to use it, because I blog and people break news on there, so that's fine. (Although why people with websites of their own and paychecks to earn have given over so much of the product of their labor to another website that pays them nothing has always been a little confusing to me.) But as a place to have a discussion about anything that has any nuance whatsoever, why would you want to do that? At best, you get funny people shooting forgettable one-liners back and forth. At worst, which is much of the time, you get gleeful bomb-lobbing like the type I was critiquing earlier today. You can't have a productive dialogue about much of anything. It's hard to even follow a conversation that involves more than three or four responses. Potential conversations involving multiple people immediately burrow off into un-follow-able little ant colonies of non-sequitur and misunderstanding. And then there's the fact that Twitter brings out the worst in people who are supposed to be professionals - I don't think I need to list the many Pirates-related media folks who have said really, really dumb things on Twitter in the past year or so (and I'm not talking about Dejan here).

In his excellent book Amusing Ourselves To Death, Neil Postman compared the Lincoln-Douglas debates (which went on for hours and featured extremely long, florid sentences that are sometimes hard to even read today, let alone to hear aloud) to modern, sound-bite-heavy political debates. He argued that the primary medium of the 19th century, print, encouraged reasoned debate - series of premises that followed logically to a conclusion. Meanwhile, the primary medium of the modern age, television, did not, because of the lack of context involved. Watch your local news, and you'll see what he's talking about - a report on a war or on crime followed by a bunch of car commercials followed by a grave warning about your drinking water followed by a weather forecast followed by a video of a squirrel on waterskis, or whatever. 

Postman died in 2003, and thus didn't get to see Twitter take over the planet. I'm sure it would have terrified him. Now, I understand that people get their news from Twitter. Really, it's one of those technologies that has reached the point where there's a need to engage with it even if we hate it. As a sort of ... headline collection, it's fine, and it has certain uses in contexts where people need to disseminate news to lots of people without having access to a laptop. But really, do we have to have arguments about the merits of the front office on there? Come here and have them. Or go to Dejan's blog. Or call in to talk radio. Or talk about it around a bar. Great. But Twitter ... almost no one looks better on Twitter. No one who tries to have an argument on Twitter gets smarter as a result.

What were we talking about again? Ah yes - 13 hits in three games against the Houston Astros. Actually, even Twitter might be a less depressing subject of conversation than that.