The most frequently asked question of me in the past 3 months is the title of this post. I’ve gotten about a dozen phonecalls, a heck of a lot of private messages, instant messages, facebook mails, emails (remember them?) and even LinkedIn messages asking me why I wasn’t using Twitter. Some even seemed hurt, the same reaction some gave me when I went off drink for a year.
There were all sorts of bets happening when I headed to Cuba towards the end of October about whether I could stay offline for the 12 days I’d be away for. No hassle at all, though my text bill was massive.
When I returned from the holiday, I logged into Twitter and saw countless amounts of bullshit. There were hapless spammers getting everyone to hashtag Twitter messages about where they were from, wannabe experts on business and social media talking themselves up and retweeting praise about themselves and then the usual keyboard cowboys passive aggressively doing the whole “certain people” stuff. So I logged off for another few days. Nothing you can contribute to those conversations except “Shut up”.
The slugtards blogged how I was too busy with work to use Twitter but that, like everything else they do and say was wrong. I deleted and removed some folks on Twitter and added more over the time and a much larger cull is needed before I start using it properly again. I still used it to have private conversations with people over the past few weeks. A few thousand messages since October, Twitter tells me. I’ve been using it as an information source too. Hands down, Twitter is more useful for gathering quality information than the 350+ news feeds I sub to with Bloglines. Human filters work. I was still reading Twitter on a daily basis and favouriting anything I found useful. You can see them here. Some people even subbed to the RSS feed of it. Bless.
Privacy is dead when Twitter is about
Oddly, even when not using Twitter in public, you will still feature in public. Anything you do elsewhere gets mentioned on Twitter by people and this includes media stuff, public talks, blog posts, Facebook status updates and even where you check into on Foursquare. It’s interesting for me that it shows you just cannot be private anymore. Unless the only people you know are not connected to anything or anyone online. Foursquare is a very small and closed network to me yet my activities are shared on Twitter by others and so to the public. When I met people on the street, there were Twitter messages about it. On a daily basis I was part of the Twitter space without being there. Very odd and something to consider.
And more. Most of the social media jesters put up numbers on their blog entries (while declaring it ain’t a numbers game) about how influential they are based on the number of times their posts were Tweeted about. The thing with Twitter is that it’s spambot heaven. Mention social media in a blog post and it gets tweeted and retweeted without you doing a thing. The 25 years blog post got 30 tweets from bots alone. Twitter is the web copied but with viraled content, morphing and evolving into a mess.
Did I miss Twitter?
And did I miss being on Twitter and conversing? Not really no. Every now and then I wanted to contribute something useful and ended up doing it via private message or emailing the person with the message instead. Or I wanted to tell some muppet to shut up. There was more of that alright. It was interesting to be there though and to be just an observer as all this data flew past. Once you take part, the data changes and corrupts the conversation you observe. It also showed that your opinion doesn’t actually matter in the greater scheme of things. Questions I could have answered would get answered anyway, when some eejit needed to be told he was clueless there was someone else to do that too. This is good and this is bad. It means that if someone in your group leaves or can’t contribute anymore then the group can still function. Distributed power etc. It’s bad for those that feel that they have to be a needed part of a community and need to define who they are in life. You’re not even a number on Twitter…
A friend (who also uses Twitter) believes that there’s a massive groupthink going on in Twitter. This is possibly true. It’s like being at an Ard Fheis at times. Reality gets parked as everyone claps each other. Maybe because sending out an opinion is easy, it’s sent to people who are interested in your opinion and it’s generally without consequence and so these factors combined makes you think somehow that your opinon is divine. There’s plenty of people too on Twitter who say absolutely nasty stuff on it that they wouldn’t have the balls to say in another setting. And they’ll get clapped for it. I’m an optimist about tech and social tech so I think that kind of stuff will all sort itself out in time. It’s still new and developing.
I’ve been back on Twitter since Jan 1st and using it as a plaything but it’s amazing that saying nothing for a while gets so much attention in a system that’s always about lots of conversing.