|The Library of Congress Quits Twitter|
By Amanda Petrusich. | January 2, 2018
The New Yorker
The democratization of media and the cultural Zeitgeist both suggest that all stories are equally important and representative—but can that be true?
In 2010, Twitter bestowed its entire archive of public tweets on the Library of Congress, which the library called “an exciting and groundbreaking acquisition.” The collection began on March 21, 2006, when the company’s co-founder and C.E.O., Jack Dorsey, typed “ just setting up my twttr,” and has been expanding significantly each day since (approximately six thousand public tweets are now posted every second). Private and deleted tweets are not included, and neither are images or embedded videos. Everything else, though, is immediately churned into an ever-thickening text archive, to be preserved by the library for all of eternity.
Anyone who has spent time on Twitter understands what happened next. A small, gnawing anxiety develops in the gut. Jeez, this is a lot of information. Oh, wow, people are so angry. Hey, a bunch of folks are talking about this, am I supposed to be talking about this? Wait, I don’t get it. Yikes, everyone really hated that episode! Gosh, this is a lot. Ha-ha, the bird stole the chips! And so on, and so on, until, one day, you glance up from your device, depleted and desperate, wishing only to quiet, contain, or excise the whole debacle like a cancer. “Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words,” William Faulkner wrote, in 1927. Unbounded chatter begets unbounded despair.
Last Tuesday, the Library of Congress announced that it, too, has had enough, and politely recused itself. “The Library now has a secure collection of tweet text, documenting the first 12 years (2006-2017) of this dynamic communications channel—its emergence, its applications and its evolution,” Gayle Osterberg, the director of communications for the library, wrote. “Today, we announce a change in collections practice for Twitter. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the Library will acquire tweets on a selective basis—similar to our collections of web sites.” The phrasing was elegant, but the sentiment was nonetheless familiar: “Quitting this shit!!!!”