I love Twitter. But lots of people I know, don’t. They don’t get it. They hold onto facebook as a space for sharing stuff with chosen, monitored and policed others. Facebook is more intimate, apparently, and isn’t about stalking Scoph, Stephen Fry or Justin Beiber. Facebook doesn’t restrict status updates to 140 characters. What can you say in 140 characters for fuck’s sake? Well, I’ll come back to that..
I went to a social media talk recently by an expert from York University. He strongly cautioned against our increasing over reliance on social media, saying it would lead to us all creating very narrow social lives, funnelling down, bookmarking our favourite websites and increasingly closing ourselves off to broader social experiences. Facebook can do that. We select certain people that we allow into our circle and can even restrict levels of access to our personal lives. It is static, dated and restrictive.
Twitter smashes things wide open. Even though we choose who we follow, once we follow people, we can’t choose what they retweet to us. So if I was to follow 100 people, and they each followed a hundred people, and so on and so on (I ain’t no mathematician so I’m not even going to attempt to develop this equation/sum), that means I am potentially open to shedloads of information, in bite size pieces.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear you twitter doubters say. What-effer. You can interact via email or facebook. Not as fast or as effectively. Increasingly, Twitter is part of media stories about particular events. Twitfeed is feeding into live tv and news coverage. It’s forcing governments, institutions, people to be more accountable. Through Twitter, a recent petition against proposed NHS reform has got over 170,000 signatures in a few days. Through Twitter a group of disabled people were able to raise funding, research, write up and disseminate their report into the proposed Welfare Reform Bill. Through Twitter (not through the BBC or other media channels) we know that Andrew Lansley’s recent trip to the Royal Free ended up with him being chased by a doc down the corridor to the words “Your bill is rubbish. And you know it!” Through Twitter, people are able to demonstrate and provide evidence of lies, deceit and cheating (largely by the current UK government at the mo’).
What can you tweet in 140 characters? Well, a lot. You’ve just got to be concise, pithy and cut out so much crap that we usually produce/circulate. It’s a liberating experience.
Twitter is what you make it. Depending on who you follow. It can be supportive, political, social, entertaining, funny, informative, creative and always fresh.
Finally, for mates that have shouted ‘help!, I don’t know how to use it’.. here are a few things that I’ve learnt in the last few months (or days;);
- Use bit ly to shorten web links you want to tweet.
- Don’t get overly hung up on what you tweet – just have fun
- At first you are tweeting to yourself, but people will start to follow you
- Don’t get hung up on numbers…
- … but if your followers start to unfollow you en masse, you may want to revisit your tweet content 😉
- #ff means follow Friday and is a way of sharing ‘good’ people to follow
Now, if someone wants to let me know the best way to manage lists, that would be great.