Twitter: Valuable Social Network or Postmodern Abbott & Costello Routine?

For this week’s blog assignment, I turned a developmental yet critical eye towards my long under-utilized Twitter account. Twitter is one of those odd social networks that I’ve never quite managed to wrap my head around.  I find myself somewhat frustrated by the individuals who seem to think that it represents a new, egalitarian level of access to erstwhile celebrities (a view thoroughly debunked by the Marwick and boyd piece).  I equally find myself disconcerted by the notion that meaningful communication can occur in an environment with a strict 140 character limit (a problem discussed at length by Wilson). Similarly, I don’t know why I would seek a connection through Twitter with brands that already pepper me with content through unsolicited advertising.  Why would I go out of my way to make their lives easier?


Despite these past frustrations with Twitter as a means of networking, I gritted my teeth and set to work on this week’s blog assignment. At first I sought to implement the criterion listed (although I made the mistake of not looking at the blog assignment until late Saturday night).  I selected a list of influential tech microbloggers. (After all, who better to demonstrate the strengths of Twitter as a means of communication than individuals who self-profess expertise in the tech sector?) Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that these users who approach Twitter from a professional perspective in fact treat the media similarly to any other job (i.e. 9-5 Monday-Friday).  Following a few hours of resounding silence, I decided that I would like to look more deeply into the phenomenon of “Twitter faking” as discussed by Wilson.  As Wilson had already delved into the political dynamics of fake twitter accounts in an Australian setting and as Marwick and boyd had discussed celebrity twitter activity, I decided to juxtapose the two approaches and examine fake celebrity twitter feeds.

Returning to Twitter after such a prolonged period of apathy, I was a little surprised by some of the dynamics of adding such active users to my feed.  To be more specific: IT’S MAKING ME CRAZY!

It’s not that I don’t like it, truly it’s not.  It’s just that the constant live-updating makes a person like me feel like I have to keep my newsfeed open ALL THE TIME, otherwise I’ll miss an update. Every time I navigate away for a few minutes, when I return I invariably find a message alerting me that a few dozen new tweets are waiting for me. This process was complicated all the more that many of my feeds (both older and added as part of this assignment) were tweeting furiously about Felix Baumgartner’s outerspace skydive.

On some level, participating (meagerly) with the Red Bull Stratos project through reading and retweeting activity about the event was interesting.  The mere feeling of being a live participant in an event through which I had no engagement whatsoever other than a live-streaming video and twitter feed was pretty eye-opening, but it was by no means the end of my experience.

Particularly troubling for me was a component of the Twitterverse which emerges at the juxtaposition of this week’s assigned readings.  Marwick & boyd argue that “Celebrity practitioners must harness this ability to maintain ongoing affiliations and connections with their fans, rather than seem uncaring or unavailable. Thus Twitter creates a new expectation of intimacy” (p 156). Conversely, Wilson’s analysis suggested a system which “offers tangible rewards and reinforcements for successful fakers… we can see that faking lies closer to paideia but embodies some quantitative rewards” (p 458).  On some level, this combination lies at the heart of my confusion as to exactly how to feel about my Twitter experience over the last few days.  On the one hand, retweeting events like Baumgartner’s record-breaking parachute jump does foster this sensation of intimacy with an event, and indeed with other Twitterers (Twits?) who added to the live discussion as well.  Conversely, following characters such as ItIsJimCarrey (not Jim Carrey), MorgonFreeman (not Morgan Freeman), and ChuckDamnNorris (not Chuck Norris) collectively add to cynicism-fostering sense of disconnect between the social media sphere and reality.

I may try to continue this experimental foray into the Twitterverse to see if these disconnects start to make any more sense over time. Follow me to see how I do! @PaxMelanoleuca


6 thoughts on “Twitter: Valuable Social Network or Postmodern Abbott & Costello Routine?

  1. yanqunlou says:

    Hi, Jon! I think we both need to face Reality 2.0 that only makes sense when you follow all the popular SNS, Twitter included. I definitely sympathize with you in terms of going against instincts (not “gritting teeth” in my case) to invite yet another SNS to invade your senses, this time, truly real-time, 24/7, until you shut down all your digital devices. Management of micro-connections with news sources, parody accounts and celebrities on Twitter really makes one feel that he/she is embedded in a gigantic web of news generation and “nobody” can become somebody through careful cultivation of tweet relations with people of fame, whether good or bad. I am sure Twitter provides productive conversations on issues of real significance to users and even fake celebrity accounts offer much food for thought in either a political or entertainment sense. The question is how to make one’s Twitter connections complement other sources of information from which he/she gets a daily dose of information? And if you are already a great fan of say “The Economist” magazine and have subscribed to both its print and digital resources, would that still be necessary for you to follow The Economist Twitter account? Pros and cons?

  2. Serumun Ubwa says:

    I think i view twitter differently from a lot of people, and class today proved that. I like how you said in your first paragraph how disconcerted you are that meaningful communication can be done in 140 characters, or even less.

    For me, i appreciate it more than anything that twitter has just 140 characters, and frankly, like I was trying to say in class, I’m not sure if twitter is even meant for “meaningful” communication. This, of course, will largely depend on how you define “meaningful”, but i don’t think twitter was created for deep, or intense, conversations about important things. It simply asks on question – “What is happening?”. If I am sitting on a bus that smells like rotten boiled eggs (which i was actually yesterday on my way to school) and am a little uncomfortable, that’s “what is happening.” Is that necessarily meaningful? I don’t think so. However, somebody that’s following me knows a little bit about my day. A hundred tweets about “what is happening” in one day, and I can summarize your day. It’s again in the “practice,” and that’s different for every individual. Twitter eliminates that long silence that exists between me and someone i haven’t kept in touch with in a while, just because every now and then I “lol” a tweet, or RT something of theirs or vice versa. So, are the tweets meaningful? not exactly. Is the practice however, meaningful? I would say absolutely. Therefore that makes the communication meaningful. Then again, that’s just MY opinion.

    p.s. i wasn’t a big fan of twitter when i first started. It kinda grows on you if you let it.

  3. djcoats says:

    I think a lot of active users would agree that leaving your twitter feed for a few minutes translated to missing out on important information. This may be true, but if you don’t dedicate your life to it, you shouldn’t feel guilty about not using twitter for several hours. After all, you can always scroll down as far back as you want when you do log in again. Also, a lot of the information disseminated on there will also be on other websites and social media.

  4. sanambhaila says:

    From reading your post this week, it seemed to me that we are the member of same pack in terms of our discomfort with the 140 character limits, and being lagers when it comes to updating our feeds. However, after the presentation last week I have decided to change my twitter habits. From what you have said in your blog suggested me that you are going to do the same as well.

    But, if we take the learning from the presentation this week, I think you get better as you use it more. That’s what I have decided I would do. Sese, seems to have a lot of good ideas. In fact this is something that @suzette gazette shared with me in her comment on my post, which I thought would be applicable to you as well. But all credit to suzet.

    Coming back to 140 characters, it seems that many people have different takes on it. Some feels it the best way for the people to make it readable. Because anytime anything is too long people tend not to read them, which is true. Later, I also thought that we as a journalist shouldn’t really complain about it because it should be a blessing in disguise for us. I say it because, may be…I say may be…if you tweet more you will learn be become a better writer since you are expected to frame small sentences…and Twitter might just help you at the end of the day. I might have sounded little stupid…but it was just a thought and trying to be more optimistic…now that I have committed that I will use twitter more often than I used to.

  5. The Red Bull Stratos project was quite a Twitter event — but not as much fun as watching Twitter during the election debates. Being a live participant is great. You should have seen the Egypt revolution on Twitter — awesome!

    I’m always a little surprised when I hear people say they dislike the amount of tweets they’re getting — there’s no way I could ever read all the tweets coming in on my feed, so I would never fret about that. Your experience totally depends on whom you follow — I mostly follow people who practice or teach online journalism, so Twitter is like my office water cooler. I don’t follow any celebrities (unless you count Christiane Amanpour).

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