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