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Twit Or Fit: Whatever happened to Wit?

Its Christmas, and in a the fine tradition of Scrooge I have this to say: humbug to Huddle and its Twit or Fit game.

I feel like I need lots of disclaimers here. I am sure for example that Huddle is a solid platform. The people there seem really nice, savvy and switched on. They are part of a star burst of London based startup innovation, and as such I want them to succeed.

But a mashup of twitter and hot or not is so clearly a bad idea: a service that tends to drive followers to people based on their looks. Ugh. Twitter is such a phenomenal place for ideas to shine, after all, why dress them up in “fit”. Don’t get me wrong. I am guilty as charged – of course I occasionally click on avatar profile images of people I think are cute to find out that they are about. Who doesn’t? I would assert that’s human nature. But in Real Life we can’t just click follow to anyone we find attractive (well we might, but that way lies incarceration).

What does Twit or Fit say about our cultures? Should we just reflect the wider culture of try and build some new traditions- I would say hopefully the latter.

In the mainstream, in order to be a successful novelist these days you seemingly have to be good looking. See Zadie Smith et al. Expertise and prowess are tarnished in favour of looks. There is no room for scientists on TV any more because they often aren’t so easy on the eye.

So we have sexy presenters instead. Clearly I sound like a grumpy old man- which is fair enough given I am nearing corduroy age – but I can’t help thinking Huddle could have done more with their undoubted creativity. I am not averse to play and daftness on twitter. How could I be, after the summer of chinposin? But I prefer to think of twitter as a place to find the best ideas and exponents of them rather than the sharpest cheekbones. Spending a lot of time looking at avatars on makes it clear that sex sells on social nets the same as anywhere else – and just as in real life women tend to care more about their appearance (than dorks, anyway).

Am I an elitist? Sure. Am I grumpy? Sure.

Look – bloggers tore into Unilever for its perceived hypocrisy in advertising Dove with positive images of women, and Axe with its more – shall we say “traditional” approach to advertising (Axe seems to be the US equivalent of Lynx – with a long tradition of ads I frankly find pretty funny in the main). It seems nothing so much as a realistic position by Unilever that it might celebrate women with a brand that talks to positive body image, while also selling deodorant to men with the idea they’d be more likely to get laid if they didn’t smell so bad).

Should the web community be held to a higher standard than a major multinational culture or the wider culture at large? Probably not – but it might be nice to think we celebrated merit. I have been thinking about the notion of Asymmetric Follow a lot lately (as have many others) – that is the power laws which underpin social networks. As Dave Johnson points out, asymmetric follow with no reply is basically the Celebrity pattern.

You buy their records, watch their movies, send in fan mail but you will probably never be acknowledged by the star nor will what you have communicated probably even be read by them or impact them. All follow no follow back.

Is Twit or Fit sexist? No – its all about equal opportunities objectification. But is this really what Web 2.0 becomes? A world in which many eyes make all things shallow?

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Comment Feed

11 Responses

  1. Or, to put it another way… Hit or Twot?

    As you say… humbug. ;^)

  2. In principle I agree with you post (shock, horror). I’d rather have everyone reading Pushkin than John Grisham, but we have to be realistic. It’s just a little bit of fun. Don’t worry, we are not wasting our ‘undoubted creativity’, watch out for our ‘awesome injection’ campaign in the New Year. I am sure you will approve. Happy holidays!

  3. Agree with Zuzanna – it’s a little bit of fun. But the principle is a much larger one. How do we get people talking and doing instead of just consuming?

    “Fitness” is like branding – symbols of value as opposed to actual value. Away from merit, the world runs on symbols – slogans, soundbites, logos, market indexes. Why? Because it’s easier. It takes less time to judge a symbol, to compare it, or to pass it on to others. Symbols are currency – think about all those brands popping up on Hollywood films, and the hordes of filmgoers that actually think that those brands are cool, just because they’re endorsed by celebrities.

    I guess a lot of it is fed by the sheer overwhelming amount of “stuff” there is now – we don’t have time to go deeper. It’s more important to keep up with the flow than it is to go beneath the surface. How to change that? Give people space, security, maybe. Give them skills back, rather than taking away their skills so that they have to fake all those skills/talent/cash to other people.

  4. Well – I was fit before my eyes graced that page & my brain registered…now I must be a twit. Oh my, oh my!

    Suki FullerDecember 16, 2008 @ 12:53 pmReply
  5. It’s puerile, silly and useless. I said as much when I reviewed it. But I still like it because it’s fun. You remeber FUN, don’t you, Ebeneezer? ;-) But here’s a thought: You can always vote up ugly people. And vice versa. And I think it’s worth syating that you’re only voting in TwitorFit – not actually following.

    If you want to celebrate merit, register ‘influentialtwits.com’, remove the photos, and concentrate on stats about follow ratios and retweets. Have an award for the pithiest, most memorable biography statement – but I wouldn’t alert your web host to expect a flood of traffic.

    Some ugly people are stupid. Some pretty ones are clever. And vice versa. But in social networks, as in life, those who have merit, and who look good, tend to get more attention than those who have merit, but look like the back of a bus. Only Photoshop can change that fact, I’m afraid.

  6. Thanks for this post, James. I’m with you in thinking that Twit or Fit’s makers could have done much more & better with their talents. It’s probably not relevant whether I find the site entertaining (it’s not the least bit fun to me), but in any event it’s a missed opportunity to do something interesting and new and genuinely clever, rather than an uncreative knockoff of Hot or Not.

  7. As per our chat last night, Twitfit is not even a breadstick ;-)

    If this is the great British hard working startup Nick H refers to, then I think we should set our sights a little higher.

    Lee BryantDecember 16, 2008 @ 2:33 pmReply
  8. Of course they are free to innovate, of course James is free to respond – let’s move beyond and just get to the value judgments and intelligent exchange.

    I think you are right on with this one James – let’s stick with content quality as a metric and try to repair some of the ills rather than just 2.0 them.

  9. Quite right then that Jake Stride’s dog is the front runner.

  10. Having talked to @stut at Twinterval, it didn’t sound like they were attempting to help find the Higgs Boson. If you don’t like it, move on.

    I’m thinking that in these harder financial times, higher values may well not find a shining light.

    The better question is wondering why people think the advertising model is going to last..

  11. The biggest problem with this for me is that it registers and authenticates you using your Twitter username and password. Urgh.



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