My “official” foray into social media began with Twitter. I don’t count my early blogging days because that was back before these push-button blogs existed, and the only way we had to really advertise was through web-rings. There really weren’t enough people writing or looking at blogs back then to consider them “social”, or even a network.
I met a lot of outstanding folks through Twitter back then, and the platform used to serve me well, until the lot of us realized that our interactions were hampered by the 140 character limit. We were beyond merely “interacting” and had crossed well into the realm of “discussion” on a regular basis, so we moved first to Google Buzz, and then Google Plus.
I’ve maintained my Twitter account for a few reasons. First and foremost, it’s fast. A lot of information comes to me through Twitter, and often times before I can find anything on any news website (makes verification difficult, but that’s the Internet for you!). Secondly, official accounts, when used correctly, can provide a wealth of information and customer service.
Recently, however, I’ve felt that Twitter is a crowd. Not a party, or a gathering, or a mob, but a crowd. Well behaved, for the most part, but when you stand in a crowd in the real world you’re in the middle of a bunch of cells, the majority of which have nothing to do with you, which don’t interact with you, and which you have no reason to interact with. Watching my Twitter stream flow by, I feel that I’m in the middle of other people’s conversations, and that’s not very useful to me. Twitter has taught me that it’s OK to inject oneself into an ongoing Twitter conversation, but not all conversations are worth jumping into. It seems that most of the conversations I see on Twitter these days are like this. Some are worse; some are just circle-jerks in which people will re-Tweet any Tweet in which they’re mentioned, or will insist on including the same people by name in their Tweets, creating a self-sustaining in-joke. Ideally, Twitter is meant to be open; a broadcast platform first, a direct address second, yet some folks use it like an old-fashioned party line in which they ignore the fact that there are actually other people outside of their little sewing circle.
One of my pet peeves is that Twitter is only useful when it actually conveys information. Some people, for one reason or another, are purposefully ambiguous, or are merely forgetful when passing along news. Vague allusions to potentially interesting or important news stories without a link to a source is the absolute worst transgression of this type: “I’ve got something to say about something, but I won’t provide you with the foundation that makes my point actually meaningful.” Sure, Twitter can field a lot of repeat information, but assuming that everyone who follows you already knows is just dumb; as fast as information moves, it doesn’t always move at the same speed in every direction.
Why don’t I quit the platform, then? I probably will, at least of any humans. It’s ironic that I feel that I get more benefit from following companies and brands than I do individuals. Like I said, any conversation of worth happens on G+, and if anything, Twitter is becoming more and more pithy, like Facebook and it’s user’s “begging for attention” posts.