I have watched, with varying degrees of interest, the ebb and flow of Twitter’s popularity over the past few years. I have stuck with Twitter for several reasons (wait for it) and in my consistency with it in terms of how I use it and my objectives, I have been a kind of accidental control in this experience among the throngs of Twitter-Committers and Twitter-Quitters. I said early on that I thought Twitter was in it to win it and not going to go anywhere. It just seemed like it had a lot of utility that other “social media” options were lacking: it was brief, allowed filters for users, called it like it is by using the term “followers” instead of “friends”, kept things simple by relying on links to get more info rather than having to scrool through pages of material that might really only be relevant to a few people… to name a few of the advantages.
I joined Twitter initially because A. had joined it and it was a way to text between Encinitas and Hong Kong for free – this was way before What’s App and the various other options, and also our phones were dumber. [Note: it was A. who got me involved in social media at all with an introduction to MySpace nearly a decade ago. Trendsetter, obv.] After I was on Twitter, I discovered some other elements of it that I liked: it had a really wide variety of users, it was a great news source in real-time, it was a much more dynamic-feeling connection to home (remember I was 15 hours ahead on the other side of the planet) than Facebook or email for reasons that I was hard pressed to articulate at the time, but there was something about it that seemed more effective, if nothing else.
I had some fun with Twitter in the early days – I won tickets to see the Beastie Boys in San Diego (from Hong Kong) and got a reply from John Cusak – swoon – and was able to keep up on news in a more effective way than ever. But there seemed to be a glass ceiling through which Twitter could not break. FB loyalists remained, ever loyal. Especially the kids. A fifteen year old Briton explained to Morgan Stanley that Twitter was not going to work for teens at one point. I think that this view has become largely obsolete with the new price wars among the phone service providers, but the article makes some interesting points, most salient among them that a firm like Morgan Stanley was seeking advice on social media, and from a kid.
But Twitter has stuck it out. Further, they have been available to try to address deficiencies, and they do not rape your privacy and link you to all sorts of shit like FB does. Additionally, Twitter has become increasingly relevant as a conduit to social media when lots of other options are removed (cue the Arab Spring uprising, and issues surrounding China’s & Burma’s censorship regulations.) While not without its own issues and mishaps, Twitter, like the celebrities that use it seems somehow more accessible than a lot of other similar platforms.
I have been impressed with Twitter as a mechanism for grass-roots efforts of various sorts, and I have also served as a member of the advisory board for a collaborative effort between KQED and Twitter called Do Now to use Twitter as a forum for real-time current events and issues in my classroom. (In that context the kids seemed to really like it. I suppose getting an assignment with a 140 character limit made them happy, though it turns out you have to be rather clever to get your point across.) I have met some pretty cool people on Twitter, and gotten to know a different side of some folks I already knew. That is pretty fly.
A. left Twitter a while ago (though I suspect she keeps an alias page) because she was sick of the negativity… she said she felt like it was just all-rant, all the time. And it is true that somehow people feel they can put more “edgy” (read “not edgy, just lame”) stuff on Twitter because it has some degree of separation that they don’t have on say, FB. This is primarily because of the whole anonymity thing, of which I have written about the sad nature previously, and it is an issue in terms of cyber-bullying as well… But like I mentioned earlier, I have kept my Twitter persona consistent and probably not all that interesting truth be told.
I would like to say that I have avoided all the drama, but alas, this is not the case. Sad people will use any vehicle possible to try to un-sad themselves, and in one case, it turned out that a “co-worker” at a school I worked at had been tracking my Twitter feed for some reason (I had a public feed until this incident) and the principal printed out a conversation between me and a good friend who teaches in Hong Kong. She was having trouble with the parents at her school. In Hong Kong. My principal accused me of talking shit about my co-workers and wanted to know what I had against parenting, pregnant people, having children, and young kids. I was stunned to silence on this one, and if you know me, just imagine. It was the biggest load of bollocks ever, and in hindsight, he had another agenda, but none the less, I went private and there I have stayed (don’t wanna end up like this.) I still get the benefit of Twitter, but I cannot interact with people like, say John Cusack, because he would not be able to see my posts as he does not follow me. But really? It is not like we are friends and that is going to make a difference in my life anyhow.
Recently, I have been glued to Twitter for two totally unique reasons.
1: I have been watching with amazement the absolute implosion and self-destruction of a couple of self-proclaimed Twitter VIPs [the people who monitor, work to attract, and measure worth by their number of followers… and subsequently think this somehow makes them relevant.] I think they missed the memo about how Ashton Kutcher is famous on Twitter, not because of his completely lame and insipid self-aggrandizing Tweets [“whether or not Twitter makes you stupid, it certainly makes some smart people sound stupid”], but because he is famous… IN REAL LIFE. Watching their whole TwitterScene go bust has been like one of those super awkward and uncomfortable situations that you want to end, but at the same time you just cannot look away from… Seeing the whole thing blow up in their face as they are parodied and mocked hither an thither for being creepy, or trollish, or having entire accounts dedicated to mocking them has definitely made me raise my eyebrows
on more than one occasion every time I look. I know the mockery is as meaningless as Twitter fame, but, it still makes me giggle. And as they have tried harder and harder to seem like they are in control of it, or above it, or not bothered by it, they just sort of sound like this:
It is one of my greatest deficiencies in terms of being a good person, but I really enjoy watching people reap what they sow, especially when I think they sow a lot of shit.
2. The other interesting Twitter experience of late has been in the wide world of sports. It seems that the new word in pro-sports PR is to get a Twitter account and get it now. I can’t really say if it is really the athletes themselves that tweet or not, but I like to think you can sort of tell…
Either way, it has been fun(ny) to watch the Tour de France and get the “other-side” [Wag-War] from the wives and girlfriends of the riders. While catty and downright ridiculous in some cases, it does offer some insight into pro sports that you would not get otherwise. Whether or not you need it? Well, that is something for another post, though the consequences have been the focus of much attention lately:
Basically, we are outsourcing our brains to the cloud. The upside is that this frees a lot of gray matter for important pursuits like FarmVille and “Real Housewives.” But my inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity.
Well put, but I still think that it is cool to see what the Olympic competitors are putting up on their Twitter and I do appreciate the virtual links to things I would never otherwise come across or see. Granted, some of them are things I would never want to see, but that is the risk of casting a wide net, and there is not a wider one than the internet.
RIght now I am getting huge vicarious joy following a couple of special writergirlfriends who are at the BlogHer conference in NYC. I wish I were there, but in some small way at least I get an idea of what it is like through the eyes of my amigas. That is sort of cool.
The people who use Twitter to have long back and forth conversations that could be done via phone, face, or email, or to air their dirty laundry, or to image-craft, or to try demonstrate how much “game” they have are kinda sad, but they are probably kinda sad IRL too. I mean, if you spend all your time talking about how great you are, how you gots time to be great? And to be fair, it is pretty easy to avoid those folks. There are lots of people who are rabidly anti-Twitter (which is confounding to me with so many actual things to be rabid about…) and offer all sorts of reasons for why Twitter is stupid, like this. I appreciated his article though, because it basically is like a checklist for me to approve followers. You do any of that stuff? I am not following you.