Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Speaking of social networking, in way more than 140 characters

The term "twit" means "to taunt or ridicule" (as a verb) or "a fool" (as a noun). That's from the dictionary. That's worth bearing in mind when one thinks of Twitter; the name suggests it's fools mocking things (or each other), and while in the realm of the internet that's hardly unique to tweets, there is the implication that Twitter's initial raison d'etre was to allow for foolish quips. That's not to say it cannot be used for more significant purposes, as it's apparent role in the recent "jasmine revolutions" in the Middle East and northern African nations have suggested, but it's probably best not to expect anything more of it.

Last week I was on a website (which seems marvelously old school compared to these social networking sites that seem more apt for smart phone apps) where there was a window to show a stream of tweets on the topic at hand (the Oscars, of course), and below the post in the comments someone remarked on this and noted how this showcased his complaint about Twitter: it's a bunch of voices crying out into the void, without eliciting a conversation.

Which, as I've said above, is not what one should expect of it.

While I'm sure the aficionados of Twitter would argue that there is a conversation of sorts in that one can direct a tweet at a particular recipient, I'd side more with that website commenter; a conversation (in the online sense) would be more akin to showing a thread of an opening remark followed by a response, and a counter-response, etc., where both sides are easily tracked as being in reply to one another and where the argument can be as long as necessary; that is, for lack of a better comparison, it's like an email thread, or perhaps even akin to the way on Facebook one can leave a comment and then others can reply specifically to that comment. The problem with reply tweets is that even if one can discern to what they are in response to, following that after the initial burst (if one comes in later) is prohibitively difficult. The individual tweets don't have characters to spare to quote earlier missives to put them into context.

Certainly the character limit forces for economy of language, for making pithy points, but that's not so much conversing as trading quips.

Again, not that there isn't an audience for that, but it's not a follow-able thread that could be considered a "conversation."

And in fact, it seems best that people not even attempt to have Twitter be anything other than it being a way of yelling out what one may hope that another in the void may actually hear (figuratively speaking).


Twitter is fine for those who have some level of public exposure outside of Twitter, and thus can solicit followers merely by having that exposure. For regular schmoes who have no public presence to exploit, it seems the way to draw a following is to devote a lot of time to composing clever tweets with hash tags about whatever topics are "trending," then have others notice them and choose to become followers—but that following will be contingent on becoming followers in return. It's a tacit contract: I'll pretend to hear what you yell into the void if you pretend to hear what I yell into the void.

There's also a fair amount of people who'll just follow anybody else in hopes of raising their follower totals with reciprocal followship (or whatever would be the noun for that).


How do I know anything about Twitter? A few months ago I started the Twit-speriment (where I decided the only way to try to understand Twitter would be to actually engage in it), and since then I have come to the easy realization that I do not have the quick wit to keep up with it—my wit is more of a ruminatory one, where anything really good will come to mind after I've thought about it for a while—nor do I have the flexibility in my daily schedule where I can compose tweets with the sort of regularity that would make it worth someone else's while to follow me. That's not a sour grapes dismissal of it; that's a frank self-appraisal.

So, that I have 0 followers is precisely the number I should have. (I've had the occasional other schmoe follow me, clearly only out of hope that I'd follow him/her back, but none of them have been worth following and so it's been always just a matter of time until I'm unfollowed.)

For those who have a large followship (by whatever means they've amassed that) it's presumably fine. For me, as we see in virtually every post here, getting to the point in under 140 characters is not what I do. Sure, that could be considered sloppy writing, but judging by much of what I've seen tweeted it's not like one could argue the blurted text of the tweets exemplifies pithy brilliance.

So, just as Facebook is not for everyone, Twitter is not for everyone either.

And if we're being brutally honest about this, there are some who really should not have access to the web altogether. They probably don't know who they are, however.


Facebook sucks if your friends suck. That is, if your "friends" (the people from whom you accept their requests) are boring losers who never have anything interesting to post, then yes, for you Facebook sucks.

Unless the reason you're on it is to see that those people you secretly hated in high school got fat and bald and ended up in crumby jobs, and you get some pathetic sense of satisfaction from having that knowledge you ended up less fat, less bald, and in a job that is not quite as crumby.

Again, not that there isn't an audience for that.


The fact that above I was ostensibly a Facebook apologist is as shocking to me as it is to you.

But if you get some satisfaction from being actively annoyed (not merely indifferent) about Facebook or Twitter (or any of the myriad things that have popularity that you just don't get), then that more or less justifies the existence of those things. (And that thought should make you more annoyed—which in its own roundabout way should make you more satisfied.)


So, to summarize: If you happen to like Twitter (or Facebook, or Mad Men, or anything) then you probably cannot see how others would not, and vice versa.

And thanks to the internet you have somewhere to complain about that.

This is a great time to be alive.

1 comment:

  1. Twitter is SO lame. I feel so strongly about that, I think I'll tweet it.


So, what do you think?