Although I’ve been ‘using’ Twitter since May last year I still consider myself to be something of a ‘newbie’, having posted only 176 messages in that time. It took me a long time to get the point and it’s only in the last couple of months that I’ve started to feel confident with it. I’ve never been an ‘early adopter’ and find that my personality tends more towards the lurker than active participant where social media is concerned.
Now that Twitter is all the rage in the media, or rather Twitter-bashing is all the rage, I can see that over the months I have started to understand it, to the extent that I find it blindingly obvious that much of the coverage is ridiculous, immature and downright inaccurate (no surprise).
Being considered by many commentators as just ‘the latest internet craze’ it is ripe for those commentators to start picking. The internet is evil, it’s full of porn, nazis and paedophiles. It makes our children spend their lives in a sedentary activity, forces them to eat junk food and ruins their health. Oh and it causes cancer. Twitter is on the internet. QED.
Mainstream media organisations have one job, and only one job: selling themselves. By which I mean gaining, keeping and growing their audience; everything else is incidental. Aside from the issue of social media making mainstream media redundant (discuss…), headlines like “Twitter: just another way of talking to people” would not sell many newspapers. There needs to be scandal, depravity, danger &c. And of course there is, because Twitter is just another forum, populated by human beings. So there’s bound to be some of the above. Not much, but some, somewhere, though I haven’t found it yet (of course I’ve not looked ). It’s the old ‘holding a mirror up to society’ thing.
We should forget about arguments over whether it’s any good or not, whether it has any value, whether it’s dangerous or useful. It just is. The point is that it’s a tool, facilitating communication, so we have to decide as individuals whether or not we want to join in.
As a tool it works pretty well. It has had its problems – growing pains you might say – but it does pretty much what it says on the tin. Being like an internet version of SMS, the messages are short, snappy, cleverly crafted (sometimes) and to the point (sometimes). The premise is “What are you doing?” so I assume the main requirement must be speed, in the sense of immediacy. Whatever is posted must be instantly available to all who wish to see it. In my experience, it delivers.
As for the content, that’s up to the users. It has nothing to do with the system. If you say that Twitter is full of rubbish, what you are really saying is that its users are full of rubbish – and I would respectfully suggest that you haven’t seen the output of all 6 million+ users. I haven’t seen the output of all 6 million+ users either, but I’ve seen some of it and I’d bet there are people talking about just about any topic you can think of. So there’s rubbish, inanity, egotism and narcissism of course, and I’ve read that there may even be some imaginative souls using it for sexual shenanigans. Then there’s friendly, helpful, advisory and supportive stuff, intellectual conversation and even a bit of tech talk. So as I said, just like any social forum anywhere, real or virtual.
One of the really interesting parts is the way the system can interact with other systems. For example, when I ‘tweet’, the message automatically appears here on my blog and on my Facebook page. This is a small example of how everything can (and will eventually) be interconnected. Makes me think of Dirk Gently and “the fundamental interconnectedness of everything” but that’s for another day.
On a personal note, I’m not keen on some of the “look how big mine is…” stuff that buzzes around the periphery. It’s usually men (really?) and relates to how often you tweet, how many followers you have, how many times your posts are ‘retweeted’ (re-broadcast with attribution) and so on. And why do people have to say ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’? But I’m getting old, so lots of stuff annoys me now.
If you don’t like it, don’t use it. If you do like it, use it in whatever way suits you. But if all you can do is criticise it, take a good look in the mirror.