The combination of a great discussion the other day and my multiple explanations to creatives and clients alike to led me back to the question “why Twitter”?
Let the record show from the outset that when it comes to twittering, I’m all for it. I’ll tweet everything from my whereabouts to the inane to the cryptic. You can follow me here. But why? To what end?
I’ve been describing to the uninitiated (or semi-familiar) that Twitter is the best of the 4 worlds of: SMS (for the purpose of conversation), blogging (for the provision of intriguing content), social networking (for the inclusion of community), and most importantly, IM (for the immediacy). Without any one of these, Twitter would not be as important or impactful. Add in the constraint of messaging in 140 words or less, and you’ve got yourself a fun little gaming in the mix as well.
In my conversation with Ray, I asked, “if the idea is just to tell a close group of friends what you’re up to, why not send out an email? Isn’t the group communication function already covered?” What we realized is that there is an important element of voyeurism to Twitter that may be secondary, but is critical. There is a sense that somebody might hear my words, or might respond, or might (gulp) follow me. But then that last part is nullified by vast number of Twitterers who, like a teen newly exploring MySpace, is more interested in collecting people than actually listening to them. Which is valid, I suppose. I try not judge, although for the record, I don’t understand the practice. It seems pointless. (But, this is coming from the guy who stood in line for 12 hours when Tim Burton’s Batman opened, wearing a Joker T-shirt and getting upset that it had been spilled on. So my credibility rating on why teens do what they do is probably zero.)
The point is this: there is a part of the act of twittering that is a bit desperate, isn’t there? The kind of “somebody pay attention to me!” whining or “know it all-ness/my opinion matters” that nobody liked when we were kids. Which isn’t to say many comments aren’t interesting, but if I was to step back from it, I’m not really convinced that anybody really cares that my kids are still awake, or that I’m sitting in an aisle seat today, or that KEXP’s live streaming is piss poor. So there’s absolutely a part of me that uses Twitter for the hope of acceptance. That one of the tastemakers might single out one of my tweets and choose to comment back with an “@mrgingold blah blah blah me too blah blah blah good one, dude blah blah blah”.
Which brings us to another social ramification of Twitter that I find fascinating. Supposedly, in the not-to-long-ago, we went through a big social trend of Curator-ism. You know what I’m talking about, it was the Oprah phenomenon. The phenomenon that we hold people up in our society and look to them to help us choose what products, services, and people we should be purchasing, using, or supporting. But the Millennium was supposedly an end of that time, a welcoming of self-selection. The “iEra” in which I would pick for myself what, when, who, where, and how.
But Twittering is revealing itself to be more of the same Curator-ism, in a digital medium. We have our @PSFKs, @armano’s, @heyitsnoah’s that we follow and look to. These are the people we hope will notice our own tweets and comment or reply. They are the social media Oprahs. We look for their acceptance and are tickled at their recognition. Maybe this is just me. Maybe what I’ve done is revealed my own insecurities and shortcomings. My own small, sad need to be heard or singled out or told “that was what I was thinking too” by the people whose opinions I respect. If that’s the case, and I’m alone in this, I may have to reassess why I Twitter and blog. But I think there may be a handful of you out there who have a similar hope. Different “@_____” perhaps, but the same endgame.
And that is the beauty of Twitter. While I could never in a million years get Oprah to hear my voice, it’s possible to speak directly to anybody who Twitters. The medium is being used the way it’s meant to be used – as a great democratizer of opinions and thoughts. Nobody might care to reply, but when you put your 140 words or less out there, there’s the distinct possibility that somebody somewhere might connect with what you have to say.
And so I leave you with the thought: "now's a good time for coffee and caloric pastries". Care to reply?