Of Mainstreaming, Shark Jumping and Building Community

Let me offer a quick glimpse into my newspaper reading habits to set the stage for this blog.  I get the NY Times everyday.  For every other newspaper I read its either on line, more likely on my BlackBerry or N95 or specific articles called out on Digg or Social Median.

Now its not unusual to find an article about Twitter in the NY Times.  In fact lately its unusual not to find an article about Twitter in the NY Times.  On Sunday’s during the off-season for my beloved New York Islanders, I like to make sure I read Newsday. Generally, that is the day where the home-town paper of the Isles will fold in some off-season coverage.  And this is a big off-season for the team (number one draft pick etc).

So imagine my surprise to see Barbara Barker writing on athletes who Twitter.  Now I am not sure why I was so surprised–probably has something to do with why I don’t get Newsday anymore at home, and why I only check for Islanders articles on Sundays–its just not a great read (with all due deference to my friends who pound the keyboard bringing the NY metro the paper on a daily basis).  

Next stop for me on my BB was the NY Post.  Kevin Kernan-whom I do not know, but writes a good sports column jumped on the Twitter bandwagon.  Again, I am not sure why I am so surprised by this–I think in this case its more that I have a hard time seeing Kevin Kernan using Twitter-much less commenting on it.  

To be clear, I have no idea if Barbara or Kevin are prolific users of Twitter. Although I will find out about Barbara, as I am not following her.

But the placement of these two stories in NY metro area tabloids made me think about the argument that many of the early adopters of Twitter (I am coming up on two years of Twittering) that Twitter has jumped the shark.

Now this is a reference to my childhood (think mid-to late 70’s Happy Days).  Remember when the Fonz jumped the shark?

This has become a term ubiquitous for TV shows hitting their downside.  As someone who saw this in real time–and was the target audience, not someone looking back at media history, I can tell you it was pretty effective.  It was a cliff hanger for the 8-12 demo.  The storyline was something we all talked about for a week, waiting for the next episode to see if Fonzie could pull it off.  And by the way, Happy Days was the number one show in Prime Time for the next six seasons, so I am not sure the metaphor actually works accept with selective amnesia.

But that is not the point here.

The point here is the critics who say that Oprah joining Twitter, or the Hollywood elite using Twitter–but having someone in their entourage post their Tweets, or seeing stories about Twitter in the NY Post or Newsday is mainstreaming this thing that we do, and now Twitter may have jumped the shark.

Jumped the shark? Because the community is growing? Clearly no one is actually listening to themselves in making the argument right? How can a social network jump the shark because people are using it? Isn’t that the point?

So, I say welcome Barbara, Kevin, the sports stars you both highlighted and anyone else–even the Fonz.  Its what makes this actually kind of fun-now I am following Barbara, Danica Patrick and Nate Robinson–that’s not all bad for a lazy Sunday, right?

–update May 26–

Right after posting this came word of a Twitter based TV show.  Now, Twitter has denied that the show will be about Twitter, still have to wonder about jumping the shark now.  I can envision a show with clues and perhaps communication 140 characters at a time.  Would be a great way to work in audience particpation as well–I am actually kind of happy that the Twitter based show appears to be more of a rumor though.

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