research design laboratory

On Tweeting

I like Twitter. I probably check it at least once a day. There's usually an interesting article or news item to be found; perhaps I'll privately chuckle to myself while waiting for the bus; more than likely I'll at least get a momentary distraction from whatever I should be focused on at the time. But rarely do I tweet myself.

I'm sure that I'm not alone in feeling timid on twitter. I believe much of this is because I'm uncomfortable with the posture I should be taking when speaking. Unless you're sending a direct message, communication on Twitter, even when in conversation, is always public-facing. It constantly requires a posture that acknowledges the presence of the public. And arguably this awareness of the public makes any communication inherently attention seeking. Why shout into the void if you don't want to be heard?

Perhaps this is why celebrities were drawn to Twitter and subsequently bolstered it's popularity - celebrities know how to posture themselves towards the public. They are accustomed to communicating to a faceless audience. And for all of the praise Twitter receives for enabling a conversation - for allowing 'brands' to communicate directly with the public - the discourse is still ruled by social conventions. There's a popularity ladder on twitter and celebrities naturally enter the climb a few rungs up.

This doesn't make Twitter a bad thing. When big events happen in the world, I often hear it from Twitter first. I've never had an Arab Spring moment where the information I was getting from Twitter was critical to my safety and well-being, but I did hear about the deaths of Steve Jobs, Christopher Hitchens, and Patrice O'Neal on twitter before I ever got word from any major media outlets. I also find most of my local news from Twitter, typically through links that have been socially vetted by those I follow. Checking twitter feels like momentarily taking the temperature of the zeitgeist (thought I'm aware that the slice of twitter I pay attention to doesn't necessarily reflect the popular conscious writ large, just the collective conscious of people I follow - those with whom I tend to agree politically and aesthetically).

So I'll admit, I use Twitter selfishly and I don't give back that much. This might change as I get more comfortable maintaining a public posture, but for now it serves it's purpose and I don't think it's suffering without my voice.

Keep on tweeting.