Tweet and be damned!

@BevaniteEllie has got me thinking. Twitter isn’t really understood very well by a lot of people. Ellie Gellard is now a public enemy as far as the Mail is concerned and Stuart MacLennan has lost his parliamentary candidacy because of twitter.

Twitter is fundamentally misunderstood by a lot of people.To the Old Media it is something through which to trudge, to dig up filth to smear on those it pleases. Others think that because nothing on twitter matters that twitter doesn’t matter. I think both views of twitter are wrong.

For example, Paul Sagar argues that Twitter is treated as something really important, and that really annoys him.

Twitter is little more than a bunch of idiots expressing half-baked thoughts, joining herds of other stampeding #idiots, and at very best linking their “followers” to other place that aren’t Twitter, where things of substance are actually going on.

There seems little better description of 90% of the human condition, the boring, mildly entertaining, benign, hilarious, passionate, confused, occasionally dull, and almost entirely inconsequential content of most of most of our lives.

I don’t say this to belittle human life – I agree with Brian Cox, human life is the wonder of the solar system – but I want to say that a lot of it, fun though it is, is unimportant. I think that’s an fairly uncontroversial position so long as you are not so self-absorbed  that you consider any moment not worthy of record as not worthy of yourself.

Twitter is a conversation and very few conversation need  any purpose at all. To live a life assuming that a conversation without a point is a conversation wasted would be a very sad life indeed.

99% of the time nothing on Twitter really matters, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used for something important, or that the links built on it can’t be transformed into something more. Inconsequential doesn’t mean not worthwhile.

The second way that twitter is “misused” is less of a misunderstanding and more of a clash of formats.

Twitter is in my view an extension of conversation. In a bar you can’t stop someone from talking to you or overhearing your conversation, likewise on twitter you can’t stop someone seeing your tweets. The difference however is important. Tweets are immemorial whereas speech is transitory.

Twitter is a new medium and much misunderstood by those who use it and those looking in on it from the outside. I think they could learn a lot from one another.

Those who think it is unimportant because it is inconsequential should take another look at how important their day to day conversations are to them – and how important they might be if recorded for all time.

Likewise, those cynically exploiting Twitter for cheap dirt should reconsider how much credence they give to throw away comments when they would be inconsequential in everyday conversation – sooner or later they will end up looking like gossip mongers not investigative journalists.

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8 thoughts on “Tweet and be damned!

  1. “Likewise, those cynically exploiting Twitter for cheap dirt should reconsider how much credence they give to throw away comments when they would be inconsequential in everyday conversation – sooner or later they will end up looking like gossip mongers not investigative journalists.”

    Ah but the point about Twitter – and for that matter, blogging – is that it’s NOT just like a transient conversation. That’s what’s so weird about the whole phenomenon of online social media: permanent records of what we’ve all said, there for our enemies to pull-out and throw back in our faces.

    So I disagree: journos won’t just become gossip mongers, because Twitter does not equal mere gossip – the self-signed guilty confessions that people put up there make it more than that.

    Which IMO is just another reason why it’s fucking shit.

  2. Two things:

    Twitter sucks ass, also has done and always will, it is used by a tiny minority of the UK population, excludes vast swathes of people and is, in the words of Paul Sagar, fucking shit.

    Second thing is a riff on Paul’s thoughts about how stuff like this exists, on the Interwebs, for all time or until you delete it or whatever. It can become a weight around the neck, hence the raft of people who use such services hiding behind anonymity or I prefer this take; your words stay there and reflect you at the time and you can either stand by them or retreat like a heartless coward.

    We have to have more nuanced debate than: they said summat daft, kill them!

    I am more than aware that if I become at all famous my blog, which has some deeply unsavoury as well as utterly brilliant content, will be poured over and things chucked in my face.

    Two words: fuck ’em and a third for god measure: context.

  3. See I also hated Twitter with a vengeance, until I joined it, when I found it to be a super-easy way of keeping in touch with people you know and finding people you don’t know who are into the same things as you.

    I try not to send tweets about boring crap like what I had for dinner or Justin Bieber (who he?!) and I also try not to write anything too incriminating but posts from @dontgetfooled, @jackofkent and @bengoldacre, to name just 3, are always fascinating.

    As Steve Coogan’s creation Pauline Calf once said, ‘if you like it, do it. If you don’t like it, try it, you might like it.’ I think (s)he was talking about something else, but it applies to Twitter!

  4. Sorry guys, I’ve got really bad at replying to comments!

    Twitter is not “fucking shit”. Its alright.

    “Ah but the point about Twitter – and for that matter, blogging – is that it’s NOT just like a transient conversation. That’s what’s so weird about the whole phenomenon of online social media: permanent records of what we’ve all said, there for our enemies to pull-out and throw back in our faces.”

    The point of twitter isn’t that everything is recorded. People act and tweet as though it is a transient conversation. The fact it is all recorded is little more than a ticking box slowly counting up your tweets, 1,846 tweets thankyouverymuch.

    Blogging is a different kettle of fish and it is meant as a permanent record – as anyone who’s blog has crashed will attest it can be heart rending (I’m told).

    Journalists will become gossip mongers as I’m sure microblogging sites like Twitter will become more ubiquitous and more people will see stuff taken out of context from long ago by journalists and think “pffft.” It may be a permanent record, but I don’t think it will always be seen as something of record for the character of the person tweeting.

    Twitter also isn’t shit because good people are on it and I can’t count the number of interesting stories sent my way by @jackofkent and @bengoldacre or even various randoms. BevaniteEllie less so a source of interesting news stories I guess.

    If (when!) you become famous DHG I will be the first to leap to your defence. Passion counts and so long as you stand by your content or are ready with a better explanation than Chris Mounsey you will (I hope) be respected by those you care about.

      1. Ah talk is cheap. Maybe I’ll actually come to see one of your plays one day!

        I’ll be living in London in a few months which will make theatre going easier, but if you’re in (the hated) Newbury/Reading area in the next 6 months, let me know.

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