As a long-term user of various social networking sites, I find my preferences shift over time as new sites rise in popularity over others and things evolve to suit my own changing needs. It started years ago in college when I was frequenting chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards, trolling for pen friends and such. Gradually I made the jump from chat rooms to online forums to social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook. For the most part these days, I can be found on Twitter. (The full circle journey from sparse bulletin boards through the electronic labyrinth of more complex online forums and back to the micro-blogging tool that is Twitter does not escape notice.)
On Twitter I have tweeps that I follow and tweeps who follow me (not necessarily one and the same). The folks I follow, I believe, are representative of both personal taste, interests and a random smattering from my friends and family circle. I first dipped my toe in the Twitter pond about a year ago, having the virtues of Twitter being extolled upon me at a department-wide summit. I caught the Twitter-bug big time and initially set up my account to follow other like-minded co-workers, in an exchange of ideas and knowledge sharing. Gradually my Tweet Feed has evolved into a mish-mash of professional, personal and TMI tweets from all corners of the globe.
During this past year, I’ve made many an observation about Twitter. First and foremost, I firmly believe that Twitter is guilty of creating a false sense of closeness to people that you have never met before. Case in point: I am a fan of a certain Hollywood Actor who shall remain nameless. This actor took a long time to warm up to the idea of Twitter and has previously spoken out against social networking sites as it was his belief it did society a disservice. I’ve found many share this belief…I do not. For all its shortcomings I firmly believe it is a useful tool when used properly. But I digress. That is not what this blog is really about.
In any event, said Actor has taken to tweeting quite a bit in the past month. Maybe he’s feeling generous with his thoughts, maybe he wants to reach out more to his fanbase, who knows… But following every tweet there is intense discussion amongst many of his more ardent fans speculating as to what he meant by his tweet. In response, some fans tweet him back with replies that are akin to something you would say to your Uncle sitting across from you at the dinner table. Not someone you have never met, nor are you likely to ever meet.
Then there are the psychotweeters; those people who repeatedly tweet the Actor in the hopes that maybe – just maybe – they will receive a tweet in reply. One woman tweeted the Actor constantly, and when she didn’t get a reply she UNFOLLOWED him out of spite. Then the next day, she RE-FOLLOWED him and told him she was sorry for unfollowing him in the first place. Still not sure what her point was, as I am certain with 117000+ followers, one follow-unfollow-follow gesture would go unnoticed.
Twitter also creates a false sense of security. It makes you feel like you are having a private conversation with someone only to all of a sudden have another of your mutual followers pop in and opine on your tweet. Sort of akin to being in a corner of a crowded room with a confidante, only to have that annoying chatty Cathy butt into your conversation. Certainly you have the option of sending the other person a DM (direct message), but that’s kind of the same as turning your back on a group of people all having a discussion together and whispering into your friend’s ear so no one can hear. What would Miss Manners say?
And let’s not forget the TMI tweets…I am also guilty of those. Tweets about certain bodily functions, drunk tweets, rant tweets, things that really shouldn’t be out there on the web discoverable for all to see. Granted, unlike spoken word, Twitter has a delete function which allows you to take back something you said out of anger, vanity or stupidity but you still put it there. And millions of people can potentially see it (not likely in most cases, but still a possibility!).
So – let this be a cautionary tale to you. Tweet wise; never Foolish. If in doubt, delete-the-tweet. You never know who could be...twatching!