Twitter is the Borg

Twitter is the Borg

Your short attention span is going to kill you.

You're being brainwashed. Sucked dry of all individuality. Twitter is destroying your ability to think for yourself — by training you to act before you think. And it's only just begun.

In this article, I'll show you:

  1. Why Twitter is the future,
  2. Why resistance is futile, and
  3. How you can beat Twitter at its own game.

But there's a catch. You have to read every one of the 2,939 words in this article.

(Yikes. That might take a few minutes.)

Sorry. Investing time is the only way to understand this danger.

And, to be clear, this is not a joke.

I'm absolutely serious. Twitter is the Borg. And if you're not careful, it will turn your mind to mush.


As a screenwriting teacher (and fan of science fiction), I love the Borg. It's one of the greatest sci-fi villains ever created.

The Borg was introduced into the Star Trek mythology in a 1989 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called "Q Who?"

The Borg is an alien race that takes the form of a massive cube structure "powered" by living organisms (from various species) that have been "assimilated".

If the Borg came to Earth, one of its drones would kidnap you, make you half-machine, plug you into the Borg cube, and suck all your individuality right out of you. You'd then be a mindless drone serving a collective master. Forever. Eventually, you'd repeat the process on some other poor unsuspecting schmuck.

Nice, huh?

The reason the Borg is such a great villain is that it strikes at the very heart of what it means to be human.

As human beings, we're individuals. We think for ourselves. It's what separates us from animals — our ability to ponder something, and then make our own conclusions about how to deal with it.

If some bad ass alien came down and turned us into a cog in its machinery... well, that would suck.

But what if we did it to ourselves, first?


The Borg had a catchphrase:

"You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."

In other words, "You can try to fight, but we're a collective. We're too smart for your individual mind. We've got millions of minds powering us. We're gonna win. You might as well give up now."

To assimilate means "to absorb and integrate into a wider culture or society."

Let's say you were to move to a foreign country (and you wanted to make it your home). You would assimilate to the local traditions. By fitting in, you'd have a more enjoyable time, be welcomed with open arms, and be much more capable of contributing.

But if you're forced to assimilate — say, by an invading army pointing their guns at you — you'll probably resist.

The irony of Twitter is that is that you're not being forced to assimilate. But if you don't, you'll be left behind.

"Resistance is futile" — not because you have to sign up for a Twitter account, but because if you don't, you miss out on the extraordinary value of the real-time hive mind.


Let me back up a second.

Technically, it's not really Twitter's fault. Twitter's just a product of the world we're evolving into.

We live in the world of the soundbite.

A soundbite is a simple tool we've adopted to quickly and easily filter the mountain of information thrust upon us every day.

To deal with the reality of our world, we need information. If you live in the snow, it helps to know how to keep warm. If you're pitching the CEO of a multinational corporation on your new invention, it helps to know the company's business. If you're planning to travel to a war-torn country, it helps to know who's on your security detail.

But as the world grows increasingly complex, we need more and more information to safely navigate it.

Since knowledge expands exponentially, it's hard to keep up.

Enter the soundbite.

Basically, a soundbite is the essence of a story (or, more likely an angle of the story).

By taking the whole picture and distilling it into an easily-quotable, easily-digestible memorable phrase or sentence, the soundbite theoretically allows us to think more and absorb more in the increasingly short space of time in our day.

There's only one problem: The soundbite isn't the whole story.

What if the essence is wrong?

Sure, if it's good enough, a soundbite is all we need to approximate our understanding of the story.

But, if the essence is wrong (or inaccurate or incomplete), then we're actually working with flawed information.

It's like going to Antarctica without a jacket.


The soundbite generation lives on "essence" information.

We don't read much anymore. We only watch movies... TV... 3-minute video clips on YouTube. Even the nightly news tries to encapsulate richly complex stories into a two-minute nugget.

If they don't, they've lost your attention.

But what happens if you live on a steady diet of soundbites? What really happens?

You accept ideas without analysis.

The vast majority of the television-watching public never even thinks about what they've just watched. They simply accept what they see without questioning anything.

If you watched the evening news last night, did you stop to consider that every story is a soundbite? Did you notice you were given the news outlet's take on the story? And that the real story was probably vastly more complex than they could possibly fit into a 2-minute segment?

What if there were subtleties they missed? What if they omitted the opposing point of view? What if they got their facts wrong?

You'd be working with flawed information.

Have you noticed how quickly you form an opinion? Even with minimal information?

This is normal. There's nothing wrong with what you've done. You turn to that news source because you trust it. You "accept without analysis" because of that trust.

But consider what happens if everything you know about your world is simply an acceptance of someone else's analysis. What if you don't even get all the information — because the soundbite is all there is?

Your thoughts are not your own.

Your perception of the world was given to you by someone else.


My website does everything wrong.

According to all the top "how-to-blog" gurus (like Copyblogger, Problogger and some other guys), you need quick, scannable, practical content, or you're outta here.

You want:

  • Bullet point lists.
  • Short articles.
  • Quick tips.
  • Top 10's.
  • How-To's.
  • Punchy content.
  • Something you can quickly grab, before you jump to the next website.

That's why Twitter is such a hit.

Info spreads real-time in just 140 characters.

You follow someone you trust (or someone you're interested in), and they send you a soundbite. If the soundbite means nothing to you, you ignore it. If the soundbite has a link, you scan it. If you like the link, you re-tweet it, so that everyone who follows you can see if the soundbite means anything to them.

But there's a problem here.

Your mind is being hijacked. Soundbites and scanning only allow for surface-level comprehension.

The faster you move (to keep up), the more you scan. The more you scan, the less you think.

A story needs context. And context takes time to establish.

By writing everything in a scannable format, we're encouraging people to skim the deeper meaning of the story. We're saying "It's okay to ignore the big picture. Just look at this essence and you'll have most of what you need to know."

But the truly valuable information in life cannot be easily reduced to an essence until the context is firmly in place.

Until then, the soundbite is placed on top of a different context.

Let me explain.


The real danger of Groupthink is that we can't think as a group.

Each of us leads an individual life. We walk different paths and see different things.

So when I share with you a new piece of information, it may mean one thing to me, and a completely different thing to you.

The power of the human mind — the reason we're phenomenal — comes from the extraordinary nature of who and what we are. We each have this incredible brain that enables us to analyze a problem and find a solution.

We need to think for ourselves.

I can't tell you how live your life. How could I? I don't know your history, your desires, your skills, your fears, or what dangers or opportunities are in your immediate future.

I don't know the context of your story.

If we share ideas and you discover that my ideas are valuable for your life, then you can use those ideas to avoid the danger and seize the opportunity.

But it must be your choice because it's your life. I can't know how the information I give you matters to your life. Only you can.

Information has different value to different people.

So when you're asked to scan something, you must avoid blindly accepting what you've found.


To consider how you feel, you actually need to take time to consider what you really think of something.

Time. That thing that's in such short supply these days.

But is it really?

When you discover a new piece of information that holds genuine value for your life, isn't it worth taking time for? Aren't you investing that time in yourself? Of course you are.

So when you're presented with new information, the best thing you can do is:

Slow down and ponder your thoughts.

Time is relative. You think it's limited, but each of us has the same number of hours in our day. Some people achieve extraordinary things. Others get buried under meaningless tasks that accomplish nothing.

You choose how to spend your time.

Even if you're struggling to make ends meet, you choose how to respond to that struggle.

And the only way to ensure that your thoughts are you own — the only way to avoid letting other people steer your life in the direction they want it to go — the only way to avoid "acceptance without analysis"...

The only way to avoid being ruled by the soundbite is to take the time to ponder.

It's a conscious decision.

Life is a conscious experience. You need to live your life. That's the only way you'll be able to offer the rest of us what only you have to offer.


Take my website, for example. I want it to be "wrong".

The ideas I'm writing about are bigger than a soundbite. If you want the soundbite of this website, here it is:

You are phenomenal. Live accordingly.

I even put it at the top of every page to remind you.

But it means nothing to you without full context.

The full context for that soundbite is my book. There is simply no way to encapsulate the entire story into a soundbite.

Think about the time it takes to write a full-length book.

It takes time. Serious time. Months. Maybe longer.

It's not possible to present the whole thing to you with the snap of a finger. If it was, I'd have no reason to write a whole book. I'd just put a 3-minute video on YouTube.

But here's the point:

Life cannot be experienced through someone else.
I need you to understand the whole idea.

The idea of Phenomenal must be individually realized. You will never understand what it means to "be phenomenal" through another person's interpretation of that idea. Each and every person on this planet must find their own life — themselves. So for my contribution to make sense, I need you to slow down long enough to see the big picture.

To prepare you for it, I'm writing longer articles that (hopefully) make you think.

I put powerful nuggets of value in every article I write.

But you have to read the whole thing to grasp it. You can't just scan it.

Take the value of this article, for example. It's massively enhanced if:

  1. You actually read every word,
  2. You've read all six articles leading up to it.

The longer you swim with the ideas — the more you read and think and ponder and apply — the more value you will get out of your life.


So. Is Twitter evil?

Not at all.

In fact, Twitter can be used for extraordinary value — pushing us forward as never before. Just as it can strip all context and turn you into an unthinking drone, there's a flipside.

With Twitter, we can tap into the collective.
We can multiply the power of the human mind

The human mind is a very powerful tool — we can solve any problem we ever face (and I'll write more about this in future articles). The collective power of all our minds focused on a single problem multiplies our effectiveness exponentially.

Think about the last time you were in a movie theater.

Have you ever noticed that an audience is smarter than a movie?

You're there watching, and suddenly a character does something that makes someone else groan. Suddenly, the whole audience sees the mistake. Because one of you saw something and reacted, the rest began looking for the problem.

You might not have figured it out on your own, but once you were tipped off to it, it became clear.

Twitter gives us the opportunity to harness the power of other people's minds.

By seeing the world through other people's eyes, we get the benefit of their experience. Their experience shows us their interpretation. Their interpretation shows us a new perspective — which enhances our experience.

The secret is to think before we act. To consider how — as an individual — you feel about something.


Humanity is (and always has been) deeply interconnected.

Man is a social animal. Imagine yourself on a deserted island with no one else around, and no internet connection. Just you and the sand.

It wouldn't take long for you to go insane.

We need other minds to interact with. We need to engage. It's how our minds grow and expand: I present you with ideas; you consider, analyze and argue those ideas with me. And in the process, both of our minds expand.

Twitter is pushing us into a new era of knowledge, progress, and technology. The power of real-time communication is unlimited.

With Twitter, for the first time, we can get immediate (unfiltered) information about what is happening right now in our world. If there is an Earthquake in your home town, Twitter users there can tweet real-time. If a world leader says something dangerous, we'll know instantly, because someone will be watching and tweeting about it. If something valuable is discovered, we'll all be able to use that information immediately.

Information travels faster. Security is improved. Forward progress multiplies.

And this is not going to change.

Twitter is what's happening now, as I write this. By the time future readers read this article, Twitter itself may have evolved or be long gone. But its influence on our world has already made its mark. And the technologies to follow will build upon it.

If you're resisting this shift, my advice is to learn more about it and assimilate.

Using the collective power of the hive mind gives humanity an extraordinary tool.

The key is to never lose sight of our individuality, because if we do, the whole thing falls apart.

The power of the human experience — and what in Star Trek is ultimately the Borg's "Achilles Heel" — is individuality itself.

We will only truly advance as individuals and as the human race if we celebrate what makes us unique. For that is what makes us phenomenal.

And the only way to do that is to think for yourself.

Slow down.

There might be more to it than what the soundbite says.


Spreading valuable ideas is what life is all about. That's why "re-tweeting" has become so popular. You find a valuable idea, you share it.

One such idea is "You are phenomenal." I've made it my mission to share and spread this idea throughout the world. Even if you don't agree with everything in this article, let's start a dialogue.

  1. If you found any value in this article (and you use Twitter), please Re-Tweet this article (it just takes one click below). We can instantly see the power of the collective.
  2. If you don't have Twitter, please join and follow The Phenomenal Experience.
  3. Please take the time to read this whole website from the start, think for yourself, and bookmark this site to watch the Experience unfold.

My job is to create the context that makes the soundbite valuable.

It will take time, a lot of hard work on my part, and relentless persistence.

But my "purpose" is to celebrate life and the human potential. We've got a mind-bogglingly extraordinary future ahead of us. And it's going to require the phenomenal power of each individual to really take us where we're capable of going.

We can defeat the Borg by always celebrating the individual mind.

And we can beat Twitter at its own game by using it to spread ideas of empowerment. Ideas that encourage us to slow down and think for yourself. Ideas that keep the hive mind in check.

Together, we can accomplish phenomenal things.

As individuals, it's a choice.

Next up, Article #8:
Rethink Your Think Time

Phenomenal: The Self-fulfilling Prophecy
is a dynamic new nonfiction book from author Jeff Bollow. You can pre-order your signed, Limited Edition first printing copy with our zero risk buyback guarantee right now. Visit the Pre-Order page for full details.


Daniel Pry (not verified) 14 July 2009 - 6:42 am

I completely agree with you! The Borg are one of the all-time greatest science fiction villiains! The original Borg cube was so unbeatable for the thus-far cocky Enterprise crew. Just a great origin and great enemy.

As for Twitter… I’m new to it but I will keep your article in mind as I cede the future, give up resistance, etc :)

Hamilton Wallace (not verified) 14 July 2009 - 7:14 am

I watch CSPAN and BBC America for the non-soundbite version of what’s happening. Thank you for writing this, by the way. I appreciate the effort it took. It’s something we all need to do: think, and write about it or talk about it. If we don’t, really, really bad things can happen, just like happened the past eight years in a large western country that shall remain nameless. If we don’t, how different are we than the borg? Okay, maybe we’re snappier dressers, but borg-like nonetheless.

Shannon (not verified) 14 July 2009 - 7:37 am

Twitter, Tagged, MySpace Facebook, etc. Which one do you choose? How many things do you have to keep up with and why even bother? What a safe world to enter and take a ride around a time waster then these sites. I am guilty for sure. I question why I go and play games on Facebook, when I could be using that time somewhere else. Why my social side now also includes a monitor and keyboard. But I too am involved in the technical word of social networking as I can be in touch with people all around the world that also connect through Facebook.
Why do I mention Facebook the most? Because it is the only one I use right now. What value am I going to get from Twitter and 10 other sites of social networking (yahoo is jumping on board now too). How much do I sign up for in order to connect with my friends and be involved and why do I have to. I have not joined Twitter and I choose only one site – Facebook at the moment. What I tend to miss is the interaction of actual human contact and face to face discussions. More and more that fades away because it now seems awkward to have real conversations like that. We live safely sharing deeper thoughts through the safety behind a computer than allowing the other 80% of the communication experience, the non-verbal or non-written.
Reading about your article I don’t know if I am still convinced I want to join Twitter either. I find two sides of cyberspace communication – one the vast benefits of reaching many more people than you ever could. And the other side, the messages out there are full of half content or meaningless distractions. I find chats online can hold so much of that meaningless and hollow “chatter”. The crap people come out with and I know they would not talk that way face to face, yet the “chat” allows people “self-expression” to be so down right rude to total strangers? hmmmm? Are all these different sites, chatrooms and networks really worth the time we put into them?
I stopped and thought about this article and how the content of these sites have a lot of garbage on them. But I just as many billions of people, have taken to it like a fly to sticky paper. Where are the messages that make you think? It will take a lot of messages of good value content to change the mind numbing games and time wasters on these sites.
My question is can we really use these sites in a new design to celebrate life and the human potential, when these electronic connections are of such poor quality? Do we need to learn how to use this power of cyber-communications better than we do? From what I get in your article, that is the movement you are starting?
When I think of Phenomenal, I think of experiences outside of a computer screen. Where all sense are fully used. Can we accomplish this in cyberspace? Maybe one day it will be invented that we use all of our senses online and have a full experience perhaps like in the movie, Minority Report, but yet again the content can be lacking any thought provoking messages of valuable content. Have we been put into a cage of social existence by joining these sites in order to not be left out or left behind?
Which leads me onto another thought, do all these sites allow for people to nurture unhealthy time wasting addictions? The Games, the mis-information flying everywhere, the status updates – what are they really for?
so my last question, as I don’t want to be left behind – to Twitter or not to Twitter? Sorry Shakespeare wanted to add the drama!

Jeff Bollow 14 July 2009 - 7:48 am

A lot of interesting questions, Shannon.

I believe (as I’ll write about in more detail in coming articles) that we as a whole — the human race — have not yet embraced our “phenomenal” nature. This has massive implications, not the least of which are a) wasting time and b) needing the approval of others.

Twitter, Facebook, and all the others are tools. Nothing more, nothing less. We can use them to be phenomenal, or we can use them to avoid the effort that would take. But they won’t disappear just because we don’t use them…

Duff (not verified) 14 July 2009 - 7:58 am

Your article was very scan-able. Thanks for the bullet points, bold headlines, and breezy copy. While I didn’t learn anything new, articles like this help me feel like I’m staying caught up with interesting new trends, as well as interesting commentary on those trends.

Vilad (not verified) 15 July 2009 - 4:13 am

I have to agree with Duff.

I will also point out that humans have probably been doing this for their entire existence. What I mean by that is: That humans, when given the option, will not think for themselves, they will be entirely consumed with the idea that they must have the approval of “others”, and they will make hasty judgments based on the “others” opinions. History is the sad proof of that.

A tip: Jeff, if you become famous, as in one of the “others” famous, then people will read the summaries of your book and very possibly learn something from it.

Jeff Bollow 14 July 2009 - 10:30 pm

Thanks for the comment Vilad. I think we only seek the approval of others when we haven’t tapped into what’s phenomenal about ourselves.

Richard (not verified) 15 July 2009 - 5:07 am

Jeff, this is powerful and thought provoking. I can’t agree with you more. I retweeted! I hope everyone reads this article. You are the Blog.

Cuneyt (not verified) 18 July 2009 - 4:40 am

A good discussion. Perhaps some points for other readers to ponder are the concepts of “collective conscience” and the negative impacts of relying on soundbytes; such as willful misinformation and other tools of perception management.

DrHoover (not verified) 1 August 2009 - 11:46 am

The Borg are just a vaguely goth copy of the old British Doctor Who enemy “The Cybermen” from 35 years ago. Just like Twitter is a vaguely webby copy of IRC.

FeepingCreature (not verified) 21 January 2010 - 8:17 am

I’m just gonna be nerd-grammar-nazi for a moment and point out that “The Borg”, as a race, are always plural. “The Borg”, in the singular, refers to a single member of the collective.

Jordan Arsenault (not verified) 12 April 2010 - 10:54 am

This article is ‘phenomenal’.
Thanks Jeff, really enjoyed it and probably going to buy the book.