This post was originally published on September 16, 2014.
The reality of gambling addiction is nothing new and social media’s negative impact on our lives is being studied and written about on the reg, so it’s no real surprise that a recent post in Card Player reported the following: when people who spent an average of five hours a week on Twitter were asked how it affects their real-world relationships, a doctor from a “prominent health facility” made a connection between social media abuse and compulsive gambling.
Much like the toggle of a slot machine, Twitter’s interface calls for a scroll of the finger or a rolling of the mouse to explore the happenings of the Twitterverse. But while a slot machine will provide you with a rush of adrenaline or a pit in your stomach, the 140-character social media platform can really only provide you with the latter; after all, no one is getting a tweet about winning hitting the jackpot on Wheel of Fortune. Which begs the question: what do we actually get out of Twitter?
The first thing that comes to mind is news. Watching anything on live TV is so 2007 (unless, of course, you’re live tweeting it), which is about the time people started figuring out that news broke on Twitter before it even got to the TV stations. I don’t follow any news outlets on Twitter but I don’t need to; now that everyone has a vehicle for their two cents, I can safely rely on any of the wannabe celebs I follow to tweet their “thoughts and prayers” about anything worth knowing about in the world.
The second reason I am on Twitter is because, sadly, I have to be. As a comedian, having a social media presence is long past an unspoken rule—agents, managers, casting executives and producers will flat out ask you in a meeting how many followers you have because this seriously determines whether you are worthy of their attention. Several “comedians” and the like have gotten discovered on places like YouTube and even Vine not because they are oh so talented (in show business, talent doesn’t matter at all) but because they have managed to acquire an impressive amount of views, subscribers, friends, followers—whatever.
The third reason I am a somewhat enthusiastic tweeter is of course that I’m enamored with the simple, narcissistic platform of quick me-isms that I get to imagine the world gives a crap about. They don’t, of course (barring a select few Dani Stew super fans), but I’ll never know they don’t and that makes me happy. Also, I don’t have to be inundated with family pics, food pics or filtered selfies like I am on Facebook and Instagram (truth be told, I don’t have an Instagram account and it’s for this reason). The short, on the go, Deep-thoughts-by-Jack-Handy vibe of Twitter scratches my joke-writing itch that has been beaten down by the craft of stand-up.
All in all, these seem like three solid reasons to keep @TheDaniStew trucking along. But if surveys show that young people are spending roughly 20 hours a month on Twitter and it’s interfering with their lives, and we know it’s not winning them any money, what is it about that tiny blue bird that’s so compelling?
Perhaps it’s the same draw as reality television—people like to watch (or read about) other people’s lives. Curiosity might have killed the cat but it’s made social media stocks skyrocket. Maybe it’s a way for people to get out of their own heads and check out of their lives for a few minutes each day—and look, being glued to your Twitter feed is never going to break the bank. No matter how many quips you churn out an hour, you aren’t going to accidentally blow through your kids college fund, take out a second mortgage on your home or pawn your Rolex in order to keep tweeting. So while their might be a very real connection between how the brain responds to the scrolling of your iPhone and the spinning of the slot machines, let’s just keep it real and admit you only need to be concerned about one of those.