Why I believe Twitter just isn’t for everyone
As I write this article, let me note that my own previous 4 tweets consist of the following formats:
i) Quote and praise a TV show
ii) Debate over a political/cultural issue
iii) Slag off an annoying celebrity
iv) Organise a night out with friends
Twitter is a form of micro-blogging, it offer users a platform to express opinions, share ideas, network and communicate with like minded people. Working in the PR industry I initially joined in order to widen my knowledge of social media and used it as a networking tool to enhance my career and the online presence of the brands I was working with.
Over the years twitter has evolved considerably, mainly thanks to US celebrities and the UK media propelling it into the mainstream. What was once a platform for like minded people to discuss the latest information or share ideas, it’s now become a key medium to the media industry that celebrities are issuing tweets over press releases, newspapers are quoting politicians via their tweets and everyone now throws in their two pennies worth when it comes to social commentary. I think its great how 140 characters is now regarded by many, as important and useful as emails, text messages and even the printed word.
I cannot stress enough however, that in all its apparent greatness, twitter just isn’t for everyone.
I am known in my office for my love of twitter. I am an absolute geek and use it all the time. I have run the twitter accounts for many of my clients and contributed to social media strategies and brainstormed creative uses for twitter accounts. I am no expert, but I’m also no beginner. But what I have found in the past few months is a change in the twitter air.
The twitter culture I first integrated with was a bunch of people all testing the waters for themselves, holding hands with new and unknown followers and taking the first steps into the pool of characters and links. It was brilliant. People shared and communicated in a new way. It was a developing community of eager conversationalist. It was a platform where people only knew you as @something and based their opinions of you by your tweets. You could speak with people from all over the world and be more true to yourself than other social networking sites had allowed. It was Facebook, without the baggage.
Over time I was not only in communication with other PRs, journalists and bloggers via twitter, my online social circles began to grow. I also started sharing nightmare commutes into work with fellow Londoners, getting restaurant recommendations from local residents. Plus I was able to start building friendships with gay men, something which I had always struggled with in the past. Twitter changed that.
Twitter dramatically altered how I met people in day to day life. I’ve been fortunate enough toattend tweet ups and meet a lot of the people I follow on twitter in person. After having spent weeks and months sharing our twitter lives, I felt like I knew them already and so far not a single one has failed in my expectations when we have finally met and we’ve merely become closer friends. Twitter has helped me meet people I never would have got the chance to otherwise.
But not everyone sees it this way. Lots of people new to twitter are getting nervous about its popularity and the rules of the followers/followees relationship. The freedom of self expression and selective anonymity that made it originally so exciting and fresh now appears to be taken as malicious and negatively interpreted by people who don’t fully understand twitter.
I, like many of my twitter friends, tweet along to the television or a film we are watching. We entertain our followers by provide an insight and witty commentary and engage in conversation with other people watching. It’s completely changed by television viewing experience, even if I’m home alone I now feel like I have 1,000 other people watching it and talking about it with me. Part of this wit and banter involves discussing the contestants, hosts, character and performances and often the discussion praises, quotes, bitches about or very commonly pervs over the said party.
These opinions in the public arena have begun to cause a lot of confrontation and heated debate. There is a very thin line when it comes to expressing ones opinion, or slagging someone off and to be honest I often struggle tell the difference.
I’m no hypocrite; during X-Factor I happily expressed my distaste for Cher Lloyd and Katie Wassiel in a very derogatory yet comical fashion. Lots of people disagreed, lots of people agreed. But nearly all of my followers are i) mature, sensible adults and ii) therefore can agree to disagree, thus iii) appreciate everyone is entitled to their opinion and enjoy twitter for its diverse outlooks.
However I have been stung and confronted by many people for expressing my opinion. Most commonly by celebrities getting defensive and reacting to criticism. I’ve got myself into a spot of twouble.
Twitter is a great platform for celebrities to communicate with their fans. They can provide an insight into their lives, speak directly to then, answer questions etc. But being a well known personality, with the good always comes the bad and they also need to know how to prepare for it. I don’t believe a PR person should be checking all their tweets, but they should also be think skinned enough not to react to negative commentary and focus on the positive messages.
Twitter is not an arena to simply get your ego stroked or stand in admiration. It’s a two way street, you need to be willing to prove yourself as worth following on twitter for your tweets, not showbiz reputation. Lady Ga Ga and Kylie Minogue are great as communctaing and engaging fans. So are lesser known personalities like Example who has found a new fan base thanks to twitter and his interesting and fun tweets.
This reaction however has all stemmed from many people using twitter as an arena to be able to say what they want, regardless of the consequences or feeling of other users. To fully embrace twitter a certain level of intelligence is required and with that should be a helpful dose of respect and consideration. Nothing I write on twitter I wouldn’t feel comfortable or confident to say in front of my mum or one of my directors at my work. I use twitter to engage in discussion, challenge opinion, be crude, rude and silly, but never do I intend to be mean, cruel, thoughtless or offensive. I have been brought up better than that. Having spent years being bullied myself and very recently in my 20’s cyber-bullied by people from my school days, it seems many of the new people entering the world of social media, in particularly twitter, just aren’t ready for it yet.
Not everyone has such an open mind and self-confidence that they are ready to listen to the inner-monologue of other people. That may sound sanctimonious and pretentious, but from my experience of twitter, to fully embrace it and the incredible opportunities it can offer, you have to know yourself and be willing to accept other ideas.
Facebook is a profile about you, with your friends, your holiday pictures, your school mates; and that’s great. What Twitter is about though is appreciating other people, having interest in their lives, wanting to hear their stories, learning about their experiences; and when you do, it’s the most enriching feeling.
In my opinion, twitter just isn’t for everyone and to be honest I don’t think twitter is ready for everyone either.